White House: U.S. working with South Korea to protect Olympic athletes, Trump will weigh in on final decision

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Dec 19th, 2018 at 2:22AM

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke optimistically on Thursday about the plans to send U.S. athletes to the Olympics Winter Games in South Korea early next year, addressing mounting questions over whether or not North Korea's proximity to the event poses a significant security threat. 

Her comments come on the heels of Nikki Haley's admission in an interview on Wednesday that U.S. participation would be “open question” because of recent tension in the area, including a recent test of what North Korean officials claim is the country's most powerful ICBM yet.

“I think those are conversations we’re going to have to have. But what have we always said? We don’t ever fear anything. We live our lives," Haley, who serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday. 

"The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea," Sanders wrote in a tweet sent on Thursday. "The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues."

When asked at the regular White House press briefing about the issue, Sanders said "no official decision has been made" about participation and the decision would come closer to the games' start date in early February.

Sanders also noted that President Donald Trump would "certainly weigh in" on the final decision, which would be reached with the participation of multiple government agencies after addressing security threats to athletes on the ground. 

The United States sent more than 200 athletes to the last Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

The 2018 Olympics are set to kick off on February 9 in PyeongChang, which lies roughly 50 miles from border with North Korea.

The United States and South Korea have been engaged in joint military drills this week amid rising tensions in the region. Those exercises come a week after North Korea tested its most powerful ICBM to date, which officials from the country claim is powerful enough to reach U.S. soil.

North Korea's foreign ministry have said that the drills and "confrontational warmongering" has made war inevitable -- but those same officials have been known for using strong rhetoric in the past. 

(Reuters contributed to this report)

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