If North Korea Goes to the Winter Olympics, the U.S. Won’t, Senator Lindsey Graham Says

The United States may boycott the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea if North Korea participates in them, a leading Republican senator threatened on Tuesday.

Related: Will Donald Trump Feud With Lindsey Vonn Next? Skier Won’t Represent President at Winter Olympics

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted his missive aimed at both the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the host country for the Winter Olympic Games, which take place next month, South Korea. 

“Allowing Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to participate in #WinterOlympics would give legitimacy to the most illegitimate regime on the planet,” Graham tweeted.

“I’m confident South Korea will reject this absurd overture and fully believe that if North Korea goes to the Winter Olympics, we do not.”

The Winter Olympics are set to begin on February 9 in Pyeongchang.

Graham’s comment comes a day after Kim delivered a New Year’s Day speech in which he called on South Korean President Moon Jae-in to meet ahead of the opening ceremony. In the same speech, Kim reasserted his country’s nuclear ambitions. 

“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to showcase the national pride, and we wish the Games will be a success,” Kim said, according to Reuters. “Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility.”

Moon had extended an invitation to the hermit nation to send a delegation to the games months ago in an attempt to bring unity to the region and prevent any missile or terror attacks during the events. 

On Tuesday, South Korea’s unification minister offered to hold talks at Panmunjom, a border town, on January 9.

“We look forward to candidly discussing interests from both sides face-to-face with North Korea along with the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,” said South Korean official Cho Myong-gyon, Reuters reported.

“I repeat, the government is open to talking with North Korea, regardless of time, location and form.”

The U.S. has publicly waffled on its position about sending Americans to participate in the games. Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said it was an “open question” whether the U.S. intended to send athletes to the Winter Olympics. 

The next day, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “no official decision has been made” about sending athletes, but she added, “I know that the goal is to do so.” Shortly after that statement, Sanders tweeted, “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.”

Lindsey Vonn, an American skier and Olympic gold medalist, told CNN if she does go, it will be to represent her country but not its president.

“I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” Vonn said the day Haley issued her comments. “I take the Olympics very seriously and what they mean and what they represent, what walking under our flag means in the opening ceremony.”

“I want to represent our country well. I don’t think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that,” Vonn said.

If the U.S. does decide to boycott the games, it would not be the first nation to abstain from a South Korea–hosted Olympics. In 1988, the last time South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics, North Korea refused to attend. 

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