Much of the American press has swooned over Kim Yo-jong's appearance at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but a foreign policy expert said Monday that the public in the U.S. ally is more skeptical.
Gordon Chang, a Daily Beast contributor who has studied Asia for years, said on "The Laura Ingraham Show" that ordinary South Koreans are turning away from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's sister.
"Right now, the North Koreans are in a charm offensive, and it's complicated about the way it actually is playing with the South Korean public," he said. "Because many in South Korea right now are not buying the story that the North Koreans are trying to sell."
Chang said the public is turning away from South Korea's leftist president, Moon Jae-in, who has tried to forge better relations with the dictatorial communist North.
"So, it's becoming more pro-American," he said.
Chang said Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympics, held out the possibility of meeting with Kim. It was a bid, Chang said, to keep South Korea onboard with maximum pressure against North Korea's nuclear program.
"So essentially, it was a deal with President Moon -- who by the way doesn't like the United States, who is, himself, leftist, very pro-North Korean -- so it was a quid per quo meant to keep the alliance between U.S. and South Korea strong to prevent North Koreans from driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington," he said.
But Chang depicted North Korea as something of a sideshow. He said that while Americans are distracted by Kim Jong-un's rantings and his ballistic missile tests -- and by Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign -- the far more important long-term threat to America is China.
"Some of the most important developments are what China is doing, not only on its own periphery, but in our own continent, in Latin America, in Africa," he said. "And by and large, this has really not gotten the attention of the American people. The Chinese are doing things which are trying to undermine our democracy, which are actually much more critical than what the Russians have ever attempted."
Chang, author of the 2011 book, "The Coming Collapse of China," said that far from helping the United States contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, it actually has aided Kim's regime.
"It's important that we understand the nature of the regime ... It's important to get this message out," he said.
Chang said the United States must acknowledge what is going on. He cited China's "Made in China 2025" initiative.
"China intends to dominate 10 core industries," he said.
If successful, the initiative would move China beyond the mass production of low-cost goods on which it has built its economy. The industries it has set its sights on demand cutting-edge technology -- computing, aircraft, semiconductors, 3D printers and electric cars.
Chinese state industrial policy aims no only to dominate those sectors, Chang said, but to drive foreign competitors out of them completely.
"This is where, you know, we have to defend our economy -- and indeed, our society -- because we know that the Chinese mean us harm," he said. "They tell us almost every day in propaganda. We just sort of ignore all of it."
It is not just technology, Chang warned. He said the Chinese also have made forays into the U.S. financial system. He noted that the U.S. government last month blocked a Chinese company's acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc. over national security concerns.
Chang said the administration made the right call on that transaction and urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to make a similar decision regarding Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group's proposed acquisition of the Chicago Stock Exchange.
"This has got to be stopped, and I hope the SEC does not give its approval," he said.
PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at . Follow him on .