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  • White House Wants to Keep Pressure on North Korea


    (ATR) The press secretary for the United States government stopped short of saying the country supports North Korea competing in the 2018 Olympics.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressing the press corps today (White House)
    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary was asked if the U.S. “supports North Korean athletes participation in the Olympics”. As part of his New Year’s address North Korean Leader Jong Un Kim said he supports athletes going to South Korea to compete in the Games. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but sent athletes to the 2002 and 2014 Asian Games in South Korea.

    “We haven’t made a final determination on that front,” Sanders said in her daily briefing.

    What is not clear is how the United States could withdraw support to the Olympics over North Korean participation. The United States Olympic Committee is in charge of sending delegations to the PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics. USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun has previously said U.S. athletes would go to the Games unless “physically or legally impossible”.

    The Trump administration could withdraw its support of a “high level” delegation travelling to the Games. A reduced delegation could be viewed as a political slight to South Korea, as was the case in the choice of delegation by President Barack Obama to the Sochi Olympics. South Korean President Jae In Moon has been working hard to secure top delegations from regional leaders China and Japan. However, recent missteps during Moon’s state visit to China and Moon's wish to revisit a 2015 deal between Korea and Japan concerning the issue of “comfort women” from World War II have brought both delegations into question, according to media reports.

    Requests to Sanders for clarification about her comments were not immediately returned.

    During the briefing Sanders did say the U.S. will continue to work with South Korea for a “unified response” to talks of potential inter-Korean dialogue. Sanders stopped short again of supporting talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, but said “[the administration’s] policy and our process hasn’t changed” regarding North Korea.

    White House correspondents pressed the administration about potential talks between North and South Korea (White House)
    “Again, the focus here is like you said to apply max pressure on North Korea,” Sanders said. “This is a global threat, which is why we are calling on everyone to do more and we will be working with a lot of leaders to do that. We will keep all our options on the table, and like I said our policy hasn’t changed.”

    Earlier in the day, Trump did weigh in on Twitter about Moon’s desire to receive a delegation from Pyongyang, using his favorite pejorative of North Korea’s leader.

    “Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time.

    “Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not - we will see!”

    South Korean Unification Minister Myoung Gyon Cho has proposed a date of Jan. 9 for immediate talks with the North, according to a report in USA Today. Cho suggested talks take place in Panmunjom, a village just north of the Demilitarized Zone. Panmunjom was the site where the armistice agreement for the Korean War was signed.

    In the USA Today report Cho said that discussions with the Trump administration about holding the talks had taken place, but did not state if the administration supported them.

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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