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South Korea Winter Olympics under a security shadow

September 22, 2017

Concerns over the security situation in Korea are casting a shadow over the Winter Olympics due to be held in Pyeongchang next February. Austria and France have said if security deteriorates, their teams will not go.

Part of the area in Pyeongchang designated for the 2018 Winter Games
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

Austria's head of the national Olympic Committee Karl Stoss said on Friday that it could envisage staying away from the Pyeongchang games next February in South Korea.

"If the situation worsens and the security of our athletes is no longer guaranteed, we will not go to South Korea," Stoss said.

His comments followed a warning from France's Sports Minister Laura Flessel on Thursday: "If this gets worse and we do not have our security assured, then our French team will stay here."

The German foreign ministry issued a statement saying the security question and the possibility of keeping the German team at home would be addressed "in good time."

The logo for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
The logo for the Pyeongchang Winter OlympicsImage: Getty Images/K. Nagahama

Pyeongchang is only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from South Korea's frontier with the north. The games are scheduled for February 9-25.

Lithuania's Olympic Committee echoed Germany's response as spokeswoman Ieva Kutkaite said on Friday: "There is still a lot of time left until the Olympics Winter Games so that there is no need now for any decision." She said her committee would follow the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

IOC denies threat to games

Flessel's comments came after IOC President Thomas Bach said: "there is not even a hint that there is a threat for security of the Games in the context of tensions between North Korea and some other countries." The IOC is continuing to monitor the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

On Friday, North Korea threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, in response to further sanctions imposed by the US administration. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, President Donald Trump had threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea, if necessary.

In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called Trump a "mentally deranged dotard" indicating someone in his dotage, a state or period of senile decay marked by a decline of mental alertness.

jm/kl (dpa, AFP)