With the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics just a month away, numerous countries around the world are preparing to send their athletes to the quadrennial event in the Korean province. However, as host country South Korea and other participating countries begin their final preparations for the Games, one nation brings a particularly worrying and complex problem to the table: North Korea. Throughout the course of 2017, North Korea has conducted several different missile tests showcasing its capability to launch far-reaching ballistic missiles and other weapons that threaten South Korea and other nearby nations. Because of the risk of a North Korean attack, the question of whether countries such as the United States would withdraw from the Olympics was brought up. But instead of leaving the international issue as an “open question”, as Nikki Haley stated when asked about U.S. involvement, action should be taken. For the time being, South Korea and its allies must try to convince North Korea to send their two currently qualifying athletes to the games in order to prevent any immediate backlash or retaliation that could set back any peace-making efforts further than they already are.
Trying to ensure North Korea’s participation in the Games is an important part of keeping athletes and audiences safe in Pyeongchang. If North Korea decides to participate in the games, it may act as a sign of some kind of a temporary (albeit likely tenuous) peace; bringing at least some sense of security for the Olympics, encouraging more spectators to buy tickets and helping to convince any skeptical athletes that are on the line. Additionally, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un will be less likely to plan any immediate attacks or act as provocatively as he has in past months if competent North Korean athletes perform for the country alongside the representatives of their Chinese allies.
Even if North Korea fails to send any participant, the Trump administration and any individual Team USA athletes must not back down and withdraw in fear of war. The threat of North Korea’s nuclear program is indeed prevalent in today’s rapidly developing and unstable world. However, that must not be a cause for Americans to back out completely and risk losing a chance of any winter glory until the 2022 Beijing Olympics. For one, successful attacks on Pyeongchang are unlikely. According to Tom Rogan of Washington Examiner, any “invasion focused on Pyeongchang would [render] the North Koreans . . . vulnerable to being bogged down and annihilated. . . . [T]he necessary allocation of forces and supporting weaponry . . . would deny the North Koreans the ability to effectively target allied command and control facilities around Seoul.” As a result, a North Korean assault during or surrounding the Olympics – even if remotely possible – would unlikely be successful, especially with the obvious multinational retaliation that would occur if an attack was actually initiated. Additionally, if Team USA did back out at any point, it would betray a definite sense of fear and weakness – not the greatest look for the world’s primary superpower.
Finally, it is important for the Trump administration and all other nations involved to remain calm and collected in their dealings with this situation. Stating impulsive, provoking comments only has the potential to spark conflict; especially with a case like North Korea, where any sort of predictability is out of the window.
The Olympics is a time where countries of different beliefs and ethnicities can peacefully come together to play each other just out of a common love and passion for sports. It’s just not right to let a single warmongering nation to interrupt and end these values.
Graphic: Anika Tsapatsaris