COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. – A White House spokeswoman said Thursday that "no official decision has been made" on whether the United States would send athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, echoing the Uncertainty expressed a day earlier by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the goal is still to send American athletes to compete in the PyeongChang Games, but the decision will not come until later. He said that decision would involve several government agencies, "but I think ultimately, the president would certainly weigh in. That's something that would probably be taken into account by a number of interested parties that would be involved."
However, in a matter of minutes, Sanders tweeted a kind of clarification, saying that "the United States expects to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea." Protecting the Americans is our top priority and we are committed to the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the places. "
Sanders' initial comments came during the White House press conference on Thursday afternoon, a The day after Haley suggested in a cable interview that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could lead the United States to withdraw from the February Winter Games, despite these concerns, a spokesman for the US Olympic Committee said. on Thursday morning there were no discussions about skipping the Olympics.
Athletes from all over the world are currently in the qualifying phase for the Winter Games and, despite comments from Haley, Mark Jones, a spokesman of the USOC, said that the US contingent is not having any doubts about participation.
"We have not had internal discussions with our guber partners. "We are not planning to take teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games," he said. "We plan to support two full delegations in PyeongChang."
The USOC is not a governmental agency, but collaborates closely with several federal departments in its Olympic preparations, including the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Olympic Games of PyeongChang The schedule will begin on February 9 in a mountainous region located about 80 kilometers from the demilitarized zone between the two Korean states. While Olympic organizers played down the threat of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile last week that demonstrated a potential, at least theoretically, to launch a nuclear warhead to Washington, DC
Shortly after That test missile, Haley said at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that "continued acts of aggression" by North Korea could lead to war, and that "if the war comes, make no mistake: the regime North Korean will be completely destroyed. "  It was in that context that Haley appeared on Fox News on Wednesday. The presenter, Martha MacCallum, asked: "Is that a fact? Does the United States recommend that our team go, or is it still an open question, in this environment?"
"There is an open question", Haley replied "I have not heard anything about it, but I do know in the conversations we have, whether in Jerusalem, if it is North Korea, it is always about, how we protect citizens Americans in the area? "
On Thursday, a spokesman for the United States mission to the United Nations extended the ambassador's comments, saying: "The United States expects to participate in the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea next year. of US citizens abroad is our most important priority, and we remain closely committed to South Koreans and other allied nations to secure the places we do at each Olympiad. "
But his stated concerns and uncertainty had already bounced around the Olympic world, as US officials to PyeongChang offered guarantees.
"We have not heard anyone say they will not come," Nancy Park, spokeswoman for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. "We have regular communication with the USOC and they always express their commitment to the athletes who come to PyeongChang."
A spokesman for NBC, which will air the Games in the United States, said the network is monitoring the situation and that currently "we have no plans to change our preparations for the Games, which are in full swing."
"As in all Games, the safety of our employees is always our number one consideration," he said. "As a result, we are in close contact with numerous security agencies, including the US Department of State, which continues to advise us that it is safe for Americans to travel to South Korea."
In PyeongChang, ticket sales have lagged behind, but Olympic preparations continue unabated. Local companies are used to threats from the north and are not openly concerned. Cho Hyun-sub opened a dumpling shop just opposite the main Olympic stadium three months ago.
"The US team has not yet made a clear decision, so I'm not too worried right now," Cho said. "Maybe I have become insensitive to the threat from North Korea, but I do not worry too much because I have full confidence in the military capacity of my country and the United States."
Cindy Boren, Philip Rucker and Des Bieler in Washington and Yoonjung Seo in PyeongChang contributed to this report.