USOC vows to compete at Winter Olympics


Los Angeles (AFP)

The United States Olympic Committee said Thursday it had had no discussions with the US government over the possibility of staying away from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea on security grounds.

In a statement issued in response to comments from United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, USOC said its plans to send full delegations to Pyeongchang remained unchanged.

"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," USOC spokesman Mark Jones said in a statement. "We plan on supporting two full delegations in Pyeongchang."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders also played down any suggestion of a US no-show.

"The US looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea," she wrote on Twitter.

"The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues."

The USOC statement followed remarks by Haley on Wednesday in an interview with Fox News in which she appeared to suggest it was an "open question" as to whether the United States would participate.

The venue for next year's Winter Olympics is approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have simmered in recent months following Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats.

Asked if she believed it was safe for athletes to travel to South Korea, Haley replied: "I think those are conversations that we are going to have to have.

"What we will do is make sure that we are taking every precaution possible to make sure that they're safe and to know about everything that's going on around them."

Asked if it was certain that the athletes would go, or if participation was an open question, she added: "There's an open question -- I have not heard anything about that."

Pressed on whether she was comfortable sending athletes with families to South Korea, she added: "I think it depends on what's going on in the country at the time.

"We have to watch this closely and it's changing by the day."