Olympic groups keep an eye on North Korean ten­sions

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - RICK MAESE

In six months, more than 2,500 ath­letes from 90 or so na­tions will bring their skis, skates and snow­boards to South Korea to par­tic­i­pate in the Win­ter Olympics. Barely 150 kilo­me­tres to the north and 150 kilo­me­tres to the west of Pyeongchang are a pair of North Korean mil­i­tary bases re­spon­si­ble for 19 mis­sile tests in re­cent years.

The world’s big­gest sport­ing event will take place in Fe­bru­ary un­usu­ally close to threats and dan­gers that have trig­gered alarms and con­cerns around the globe in re­cent days. The rhetoric was turned up yet an­other notch on Fri­day morn­ing when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned on Twit­ter that the United States was “locked and loaded,” and said “hope­fully Kim Jong Un will find an­other path!”

Still, for those in South Korea, the spec­tre of peril has long ex­isted in the back­ground of ev­ery­day life, and Olympic of­fi­cials are mov­ing ahead with plans to stage the Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, a moun­tain­ous re­gion lo­cated about 80 miles east of Seoul, the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. The sports will be con­tested about 65 kilo­me­tres from the demil­i­ta­rized zone.

“We are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula and the re­gion very closely,” a spokesper­son with the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee said Fri­day. “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.”

The IOC se­lected Pyeongchang as its 2018 host city in 2011, well

aware of North Korea’s hos­tile re­la­tions with its neigh­bour to the south and the United States. Se­cu­rity is a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing with ev­ery Olympics and each stag­ing of a Sum­mer or Win­ter Games al­ways presents unique chal­lenges and po­ten­tial threats. The Salt Lake City Games took place five months af­ter the 9/11 at­tacks. More re­cently, the 2014 Sochi Games were held not far from ex­trem­ist forces from the North Cau­ca­sus, and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment uti­lized 40,000 se­cu­rity forces to pro­tect the Win­ter Olympics.

While there’s been some spec­u­la­tion that North Korea could play a role in as­sist­ing the Pyeongchang Olympics — pos­si­bly lend­ing use of a North Korean ski re­sort or help­ing field an in­ter-Korean women’s ice hockey team — noth­ing has been for­mal­ized.

While many in Seoul are ac­cus­tomed to po­ten­tial dan­gers posed by North Korea, Trump has shown a will­ing­ness to match the rhetoric, promis­ing this week “fire and fury,” which prompted North Korea to threaten an at­tack on Guam.

“This time isn’t any dif­fer­ent from the North Korean side — they haven’t done that much dif­fer­ent than in the past,” David Kang, di­rec­tor of the Korean Stud­ies In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, told The Washington Post.

“Kim Jong-un may be test­ing more mis­siles, but es­sen­tially their be­hav­iour is not any dif­fer­ent. The big thing we keep miss­ing about North Korea is that their threats are al­ways the sec­ond half of a sen­tence, and we ig­nore the first half. North Korea con­sis­tently says ‘If the United States at­tacks us first, we will fight back.’ The only thing that gets re­ported in the U.S. me­dia is the sec­ond clause, not the first.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.