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Nikki Haley casts some doubt on U.S. athletes at 2018 PyeongChang Olympics

Haley said sending Americans remains an 'open question' given how tensions remain high in the Korean Peninsula.
Venues And Townscape Ahead Of PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
The Olympic rings is seen in Hoenggye town, near the venue for the Opening and Closing ceremony ahead of PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 4, 2017 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

Nikki Haley, America's ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that the United States' participation in February's Winter Olympics in South Korea remains up in the air, while the White House said Thursday that "no official decision has been made" regarding the games.

Haley was initially asked Wednesday night on Fox News whether sending American athletes was a "done deal" given the tensions in the region, and responded that the situation is an "open question."

"I have not heard anything about that," she added, "but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it's Jerusalem or North Korea — it's about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?"

Her comments came on the day President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — causing uproar among world leaders and fueling the threat of violent protests.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. said on Thursday that Haley's statements were taken out of context.

"The United States looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in the Republic of Korea next year," the spokesperson said. "As always, the protection of American citizens overseas is our most important priority. We remain closely engaged with the Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues as we do every Olympics."

On Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited security considerations when she said going to the Olympics wasn't set in stone.

But "the goal," she said, is for athletes to compete.

Minutes after the daily press briefing ended, Sanders clarified her remarks in a tweet saying that "the U.S. looks forward to participating" in the Olympics and helping to ensure the venues are secure.

The 2018 Olympics are set to take place in the mountainous and remote region of PyeongChang, roughly 50 miles from the heavily protected North Korean border.

Haley, when asked about the safety of the U.S. delegation, said further conversations are necessary.

"What have we always said — we don't ever fear anything. We live our lives. ... What we will do is make sure we're taking every precaution possible to make sure that they're safe and to know everything that's going on around them," Haley added. "So I think that's something where the administration's going to come together and find out the best way to make sure they're protected."

Related: How events have unfolded in the North Korean crisis under Trump

A U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman, Mark Jones, has said that staging a sports spectacle like the Olympics can be a challenge for any host city, which must contend with an influx of international visitors. He added that American officials were working with organizers and law enforcement ahead of time.

Jones added Thursday: "We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. We plan on supporting two full delegations in PyeongChang."

But other countries, including France and Austria, have said they're willing to sit out these games if safety can't be guaranteed.

In recent days, North Korea has continued to suggest that war is inevitable as it moves ahead with its missile testing program.

The U.S. this week has run military drills with South Korea by flying dozens of planes in a show of force. The move led North Korea to say in its state-run media that it could escalate the situation "to the brink of nuclear war."

Some Olympic athletes training for PyeongChang told NBC News in recent weeks that family and friends are increasingly asking what provocations in the Korean Peninsula mean for them. But they said they're putting their faith in the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"Anywhere we go I wish we didn't have to worry about what things could happen," said Jamie Greubel Poser, who won bronze in the two-women's bobsled at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. "We just have to do our best to be aware while staying focused on our priority, which is competing."