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Report: Lindsey Graham's Korea tweet pushing Seoul to defend Olympics

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: Lindsey Graham's Korea tweet pushing Seoul to defend Olympics
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., does not want the United States to attend the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics if North Korea participates. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- South Korea's claim of close cooperation with the United States on rapidly evolving developments with North Korea was a response to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., according to a local press report.

Gukje News reported Wednesday the statement from Seoul unification ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun, reaffirming security at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, was an indirect rebuttal to Graham, who had begun the New Year with a tweet targeting Kim Jong Un's reconciliatory speech.

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"Allowing Kim Jong Un's North Korea to participate in #WinterOlympics would give legitimacy to the most illegitimate regime on the planet," Graham had tweeted on Monday.

"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."

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Baik did not directly address the U.S. lawmaker nor his tweet, but said the government is "doing its best" to make the Pyeongchang Olympics peaceful and safe.

The South Korean official also said the United States and South Korea are "working closely with each other" on issues surrounding the peninsula.

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Graham's tweet was not well received on social media, and at least one commenter asked why athletes who worked hard to perform at the Winter Games must be punished for North Korea tensions.

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While South Korea says it's cooperating with the United States on current developments, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Kim's olive branch to the South is to create a schism between South Korea and the United States, Voice of America reported Wednesday.

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McMaster also said North Korea's provocations are not creating divisions but making the alliance stronger, according to the report.

Kim's New Year speech provides no reassurances, he said.

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