World Nikki Haley: North Korea threat makes U.S. Olympic participation an 'open question'

12:52  07 december  2017
12:52  07 december  2017 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Nikki Haley said that the U.S. would take “every precaution” to ensure the safety of its athletes.© Getty Images Nikki Haley said that the U.S. would take “every precaution” to ensure the safety of its athletes. The opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are nearing, but at the same time, tensions between the U.S. and North Korea are rising. With the 2018 Games set to be held approximately 50 miles from the demilitarized zone between the two Korean states, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday that it was an “open question” whether Team USA would participate.

Speaking with Fox News’s Martha MacCallum, Haley said that the U.S. would take “every precaution” to ensure the safety of its athletes. Asked if she would “feel comfortable” sending a family member who was on Team USA to PyeongChang, Haley replied, “I think it depends on what’s going on at the time in the country.”

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“We have to watch this closely, and it’s changing by the day,” she added.

The U.S. flew a supersonic bomber over South Korea on Wednesday, part of a week-long slate of military exercises intended to send a strong warning to North Korea. That country launched an intercontinental ballistic missile last week that demonstrated a potential, at least theoretically, to deliver a nuclear warhead to Washington, D.C.

Shortly after that missile test, Haley said at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that “continued acts of aggression” from North Korea could lead to war, and that “if war comes, make no mistake — the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

On Wednesday, Haley was asked by MacCallum, “In terms of the threat of potential military action in that region … do you think it is safe for [U.S. athletes] to go there in this environment?”

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“I think those are conversations we are going to have to have, but what have we always said? We don’t ever fear anything, we live our lives,” Haley said. ” . . . And certainly that is a perfect opportunity for all of them to go and do something they have worked so hard for.

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“What we will do is, we will make sure that we’re taking every precaution possible to make sure that they’re safe, and to know everything that’s going on around them.”

“Is that a done deal — is the United States recommending that our team goes, or is that still an open question, in this environment?” MacCallum asked.

“There’s an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem, whether it’s North Korea — it’s always about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?”

If Team USA members and United States Olympic Committee officials are concerned about their safety in PyeongChang when the Games take place in February, they aren’t expressing much about that publicly.

“The proximity is close, but from what I understand, the Olympics is one of the safest places that you can be in terms of heightened security,” U.S. biathlete Lowell Bailey told The Post’s Adam Kilgore in September. “I really do trust that the Olympic Committee and the State Department are all very diligent and would never put their athletes in harm’s way. I wouldn’t say it’s something I never think about, but I’m confident we’re in good hands.”

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“Should the unthinkable happen and there’s conflict between nations, that’s not an issue for the U.S. Olympic Committee to get involved in,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said at the time. “Then it becomes an issue for the IOC and our nations to make decisions. So we’re preparing as if we’re going to go.”

Asked  if she had any hesitation about having her family come to Pyeongchang to watch her compete, U.S. alpine skier Julia Mancuso said jokingly, “Not really. You could be like, ‘If you go down, we’re going down together.’ ”

Some NBC staffers are wary of signing up for their network’s on-site coverage of the Winter Games because “they’re afraid to get nuked,” the New York Post’s Page Six reported Monday, quoting a source. The source added that network employees are usually eager to work Olympic assignments.

The recent ICBM test has frustrated organizers of the Winter Games, who have grappled with low enthusiasm in the host country and lagging ticket sales. “It wouldn’t make sense for anyone to cancel tickets to PyeongChang because of fears about North Korea,” one organizer told the AP. “There’s no war; bombs aren’t being dropped on PyeongChang.”

The Games have occasionally been the scene of terrorist attacks, most notably in Munich in 1972, when members of a Palestinian organization killed 11 Israeli Olympians and a West German policeman. Two other fatal attacks occurred in 1996, when a pipe bomb exploded in Atlanta, killing one person and wounding dozens of others, and in 2008, when a knife-wielding assailant in Beijing killed an American businessman and wounded his wife and their tour guide.

Last month, the Trump administration placed North Korea back on the U.S.’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the South Korean government said that it would welcome athletes from its northern neighbor to compete in PyeongChang. North Korea has yet to indicate if it will participate, having boycotted the Games the previous time South Korea hosted them, in the summer of 1988.

One country that won’t be sending its athletes to PyeongChang is Russia. The country was banned from the 2018 Games by the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday for allegedly conducting a widespread doping program, although some individual Russian athletes may be allowed to compete.

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