Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that the United States’ participation in February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea remains up in the air amid mounting provocations by the North.
Haley was asked Wednesday night on Fox News whether sending American athletes was a “done deal,” and responded that the situation is an “open question.”
“I have not heard anything about that,” she added, “but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea — it’s about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?”
Her comments came on the day President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — causing uproar among world leaders and fueling the threat of violent protests.
The 2018 Olympics are set to take place in the mountainous and remote region of PyeongChang, roughly 50 miles from the heavily protected North Korean border.
Haley, when asked about the safety of the U.S. delegation, said further conversations are necessary.
“What have we always said — we don’t ever fear anything. We live our lives. … What we will do is make sure we’re taking every precaution possible to make sure that they’re safe and to know everything that’s going on around them,” Haley added. “So I think that’s something where the administration’s going to come together and find out the best way to make sure they’re protected.”
A U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman, Mark Jones, has said that staging a sports spectacle like the Olympics can be a challenge for any host city, which must contend with an influx of international visitors. He added that American officials were working with organizers and law enforcement ahead of time.
Jones added Thursday: “We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. We plan on supporting two full delegations in PyeongChang.”
But other countries, including France and Austria, have said they’re willing to sit out these games if safety can’t be guaranteed.
In recent days, North Korea has continued to suggest that war is inevitable as it moves ahead with its missile testing program.
The U.S. this week has run military drills with South Korea by flying dozens of planes in a show of force. The move led North Korea to say in its state-run media that it could escalate the situation “to the brink of nuclear war.”
Some Olympic athletes training for PyeongChang told NBC News in recent weeks that family and friends are increasingly asking what rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula means for them. But they said they’re putting their faith in the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Anywhere we go I wish we didn’t have to worry about what things could happen,” said Jamie Greubel Poser, who won bronze in the two-women’s bobsled at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. “We just have to do our best to be aware while staying focused on our priority, which is competing.”