U.S. Tightens Olympic Security Amid Standoff With N. Korea

Security protocols are tight after years of planning

South Korea Olympics
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• February 1, 2018 5:00 am


The United States is beefing up security procedures surrounding the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea, where escalating tensions with the dictatorial regime to the north could cast cloud over the games, according to U.S. officials working on the effort.

U.S. security personnel have been laying the groundwork for security in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for nearly two years, according to Trump administration officials, who disclosed that about 100 U.S. security personnel would be on the ground to protect American athletes, attendees, and diplomats.

Amid a growing standoff with North Korea over its nuclear program and Western efforts to block the country's progress, U.S. officials expressed confidence in South Korea's ability to ensure the safety of Americans on the ground.

While the United States will have a relatively small security footprint, the South Korean government is handling the bulk of security preparations, which is the norm for the Olympic games.

Reporters present at a security briefing pressed senior State Department officials to detail specific security concerns regarding the North Korean government, which has already vowed to "scare the hell out of the U.S." ahead of the games.

North Korea also will parade scores of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles during a Feb. 8 parade timed to take place right at the games' open.

U.S. officials said there are "no specific threats" at the moment, but that they have been planning for all scenarios that could pose a threat.

"We have no specific threats right now that we're concerned about in terms of specific threats," Assistant Secretary Michael Evanoff of the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security told reporters. "But what I would again take—go back to is we have a great—a high degree of confidence on the security—from the comprehensive nature of the security plan that's in place."

Evanoff said the focus is on working with South Korea to enhance security.

"We are working together to enhance their capabilities, ranging from airport screening procedures to managing entry and exit at stadiums and preventing security incidents in and around the clusters and the sporting events," Evanoff said.
Nearly half of the U.S. security personnel on the ground will provide field security. They will liaise with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the athletes, and other support staffers.

While tensions with North Korea will likely undergird the games, U.S. officials said they approached the security issue as they would in any other circumstance.

"Our approach to this game has been no different than any other Olympic Games. We started our collaboration with the Republic of Korea over two years ago," said one administration official. "We established our presence at the embassy with the establishment of the Olympic security coordination office. We've staffed that office domestically through the DS-led International Security Event Group. We've—we have started collaborating with all of our partner agencies and started

"So really, our approach has been no different than what it was for the Summer Olympics two years ago," the official said.

To help streamline information and possible security warnings the State Department has established two separate websites containing information and emergency contact data.

"Any citizen of the United States traveling to the 2018 Winter Games can rest assured that the Republic of Korea has a comprehensive security system in place and that the United States Government is supporting our ally in that regard," said Steve Goldstein, the under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.