The United States says it is not aware of any specific threats to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, despite nuclear tensions with neighboring North Korea.
Senior State Department officials in charge of security for the U.S. Olympic team told reporters Wednesday they have been working closely with South Korea for two years to prepare for the 2018 Winter Games that begin with an opening ceremony February 9 in the town of Pyeongchang.
Assistant secretary for diplomatic security Michael Evanoff says his team is well aware of the nuclear tensions with North Korea and has prepared for all contingencies.
“I mean, we’re only less than a hundred miles (160 kilometers) from North Korea, so we’ve planned for all contingencies.”
Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, had high praise for the South Korean government.
“Authorities of the Republic of Korea are responsible for the overall security of the games, and we’re confident in their ability to host a safe and successful event this year,” Goldstein said.
Diplomatic security chief Evanoff agreed, saying the U.S. working relationship with South Korea has been “exceptional.”
Senior State Department officials said about 100 diplomatic security agents will be deployed to Seoul and to Pyeongchang for the Winter Games and the Paralympics, roughly the same number that have been sent to previous Olympic games.
The U.S. Olympic delegation will number about 275, and some 60,000 Americans are expected to attend the games, including Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence.
North Korea is also sending athletes to the games. The North Korean government is planning a major parade or rally the day before the opening ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military. Goldstein said he hopes North Korea will embrace the Olympic spirit.
“While we would prefer that this parade not occur on Feb. 8, it is our hope, and I know the hope of South Korea, that the North Koreans who agreed to send people to the games to participate will join with all the nations of the world in celebrating the athletes.
Goldstein said fundamentally, the Olympic Games are about the athletes.