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North Korea Tensions Raise Concerns About Olympics In South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Austria and Germany joined France on September 22 in saying they are considering staying away from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea because of growing fears about North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The February Olympics are scheduled to run from February 9-25 in Pyeongchang, just 80 kilometers south of the heavily-fortified border with North Korea.

Amid a sharply escalating war of words between Pyongyang and Washington this week, North Korea's foreign minister told reporters at the United Nations in New York that the North might conduct its next hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean rather than underground.

The sharp exchange of threats led France's Sports Minister Laura Flessel on September 21 to warn that "if this gets worse and we do not have our security assured, then our French team will stay" in France.

Despite efforts by the International Olympic Committee to calm worries, Flessel was joined on September 22 by winter sports powerhouse Austria, where the head of the Olympic committee, Karl Stoss, said that "if the situation worsens and the security of our athletes is no longer guaranteed, we will not go to South Korea."

Austria took home 17 medals from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and has been the dominant force in alpine skiing and ski jumping.

Officials in Germany, another winter sports heavyweight, said the government would weigh whether the German team should stay home in light of growing security questions.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP