On February 9, in PyeongChang, South Korea, the 23rd edition of the Olympic Winter Games begins. The Games will bring together nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 countries, including North Korea, whose delegation already arrived in the neighboring country. The participation of the North Koreans came to be an international politics issue, and, despite much resistance, Pyongyang decided to send a delegation as a gesture of goodwill, since the tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue.
Both sides categorically refuse dialogue, what keeps suspense around a military confrontation. For the majority of experts, North Korea is the main responsible for the aggravation in the East Asia situation.
However, the role played by the United States in the region contributes to the speech held by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has seen Washington’s “old friends” being wiped out of power as US interests shifted. This was the case, for example, with Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Countries with which the United States has worked fruitfully in recent years have ended up on a blacklist of “terrorism accomplices”.
The past would justify the present and North Korea, despite the severe economic crisis, would be spending millions on nuclear weapons as a way of protecting itself from whatever is to come. Furthermore, Seoul’s decision to deploy an anti-ballistic missile defense system (the THAAD) offered by the United States, makes the environment even more troubled. The decision was adopted just after South Korea was confirmed as the host for this year’s Winter Olympics.
For political scientist Nicolas Levy, of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a military conflict cannot be ruled out during the event. In his assessment, Kim Jong-un will not give up his nuclear program because he is convinced that only these weapons will protect him from a possible US attack.
In many ways, due to wandering foreign politics by Washington and Seoul, the upcoming Winter Olympics may become the Nuclear Missile Olympics. Given the current circumstances, the PyeongChang event could still be transferred to Munich, Germany, or Annecy, France, cities that fought for the right to host the Games.
Marcelo Rech is a journalist, director of InfoRel, specialist in International Relations, Strategies and Policies of Defense, Terrorism and Counterinsurgence and the Impact of Human Rights in Armed Conflicts.