BERLIN (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee said on Thursday it was “closely monitoring” rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, less than 200 days before the 2018 Winter Olympics are set to begin in South Korea’s Pyeongchang.
The Games return to the country next year for the first time since the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul. But what would be the first winter Games in Asia outside Japan and the first of three consecutive Olympics on the continent risk being overshadowed by the mounting crisis involving North Korea.
The reclusive North’s apparent progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland led to a war of words this week between the two countries, unnerving regional powers.
President Donald Trump said the United States would respond with “fire and fury” if North Korea threatened it. North Korea dismissed the warnings and outlined detailed plans for a missile strike near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
Experts in South Korea said the plans for an attack around Guam ratcheted up risks significantly, since Washington was likely to view any missile aimed at its territory as a provocation, even if it were launched as a test.
“We are monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region very closely,” an IOC spokesperson said. “The IOC is keeping itself informed about the developments. We continue working with the organizing committee on the preparations of these Games, which continue to be on track.”
South Korea had failed twice to land the winter Olympics of 2010 and 2014 but succeeded in getting the nod in 2011 for the 2018 edition, which is scheduled for Feb. 9-25.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said last month the North will be given until the last minute to decide whether it will take part in the Olympics. He wants to get North Korea involved, even though none of its athletes have met the qualification standards.
His proposal for a unified team has already been turned down by a top North Korean sports official as unrealistic in the current political climate.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Larry King