This story is intended to monitor developments in the 2018 Winter Olympics and will be updated accordingly. The political setting is inescapable at these games, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in the light of rising military rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula and from the United States. Sign in to collaborate on this story, to add details, entries or further sources, as the games progress.
The Winter Olympics 2018 end Sunday February 25 after an apparently successful competition featuring a joint team from South Korea, which hosted, and North Korea. However US President Donald Trump, whose daughter will attend the closing ceremony, has announced a fresh package of sanctions against North Korea.
The sanctions are aimed at forcing North Korea to abandon its nuclear missile programme. At a news conference where the measures were announced, President Trump warned of further action if the sanctions did not achieve their aim: “If the sanctions don’t work we’ll have to go phase two – and phase two may be a very rough thing, may be very, very unfortunate for the world,” he said. “It [North Korea] really is a rogue nation.” (See previous WikiTribune coverage of U.S. sanctions.)
Ivanka Trump will represent the U.S. at the closing ceremony on February 25. Vice-President Mike Pence attended the opening ceremony on February 9, and The New York Times reported that it was the North Korean side which then refused to hold a formal meeting with Pence.
February 22: A North Korean leader who is blamed for the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors will lead the North’s delegation at the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, Reuters reports. Kim Chong-yol, now vice-chairman of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, was head of an intelligence agency believed to have caused the 2010 sinking of the corvette ROKS Cheonan.
North Korea has always denied any responsibility.
Seoul will pay mainly for accommodation and food for Pyongyang’s cheer squad, an orchestra, and some taekwondo performers and supporting personnel. The International Olympic Federation is paying the costs of 22 major athletes from the North. However South Korea will foot the bill for the delegation of senior North Korean officials, including the sister of Kim Jong-un.
Supreme leader Kim Jong-un thanked South Korea for “specially prioritizing” the North’s attendance at the Games, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported, (BBC and The Guardian).
Kim referred to “a warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” after a delegation including his sister returned from Pyeongchang.
February 11: U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said new diplomatic talks between his country, North Korea, and South Korea are in prospect, as he returned from a brief visit to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Pence spoke of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.” He was on his way back to the U.S. on board Air Force Two. A summit meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas is possible, he added.
Pence shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but not with Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s sister. Moon shook hands with all, including Kim.
North Korea decided to hold a military parade on Thursday which was initially scheduled for April. It was the first time in 40 years that the annual parade was held in February. The BBC saw this as a setback to any possible thaw in relations between the two Koreas ahead of the Olympics.
U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who is currently visiting the Middle East, told reporters in Egypt that it was too early to judge whether the latest developments represented the start of a diplomatic process.
February 8: North Korea said it will not have meetings with U.S. officials during the Olympics, despite the presence of U.S. Vice-President Pence.
“Explicitly speaking, we have no intention to meet with the U.S. side during the stay … Our delegation’s visit to South Korea is only to take part in the Olympics and hail its successful holding,” Reuters reported, quoting Jo Yong-sam, a director-general in the North’s foreign ministry.
Pence will attend the opening ceremony, and, according to The Guardian, be seated a short distance from Kim Yo-jong.
February 7: Athletes from North and South Korea will march under one blue-and-white flag at the formal opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on February 9.
U.S. Vice-President Pence, who yesterday gave a cautionary speech in Japan, will head his country’s delegation.
Just over 30 years ago, the North’s determination to ruin the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul caused the deaths of 115 people in November 1987 on Korean Airlines flight 858.
Two North Korean agents, who boarded the plane and left a concealed bomb before leaving the flight at a way-stop, had been commissioned to destroy it as part of a campaign to cause fear in the run-up to the Olympics.
Despite recent rhetoric, things have changed so much that a senior delegation including Kim Yo-jong, will attend the games. The united front under a common flag has happened before, at international table tennis and soccer events as well as Olympics, but not since 2008.
Apart from the two Koreas relationship, Russia has been banned from competing officially because of doping contraventions. However, some Russian athletes are permitted to compete, but as neutral individuals.
And – although it is a series of snow-and-ice events – fears have been expressed that the weather will be so cold that spectators might be deterred (National Public Radio). On February 7, the temperature in Pyeongchang was around 11 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 11 Celsius.)
The most newsworthy happenings at the Winter Olympics will be recorded here and the opening ceremony takes place on Friday February 9. As AP reports, there is irony in an expression of global co-operation taking place in what author Mark Hertsgaard describes as the “most dangerous place on Earth.”
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Thanks, Jimmy Wales