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U.S. envoy hails Tokyo Olympics as overcoming great adversity

NEW YORK — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday said Japan should be “proud” of having overcome “great adversity” to stage the Tokyo Olympics amid the coronavirus pandemic in remarks ahead of her arrival to attend the games’ closing ceremony later in the week.


“I think the people of Japan, you should be proud and you have so much to be proud of as the host and the host of such a large-scale international event like the Olympics and the Paralympic Games,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a teleconference with Japanese media outlets including Kyodo News.


The envoy will represent the United States at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. The Summer Games’ opening ceremony on July 23 was attended by first lady Jill Biden.


“I think the games really bring together the best of all of our countries and hosting them is a testament of the Japanese people’s resolve to overcome great adversity,” she said.


The games were also initially billed by the Japanese government as showcasing the recovery of northeast Japan from the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster, with several Olympic events held in the region.


The United States is “really grateful” to the Japanese people as well as the International Olympic Committee “for their commitment to hosting a safe and secure Olympics and Paralympic Games,” the envoy added.


Thomas-Greenfield, a former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, plans to meet the refugee team while staying in Japan.


Referencing her background in humanitarian and refugee issues, the envoy said she is “excited” at the prospect of meeting the refugee athletes.


On North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, Thomas-Greenfield said, “Diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving complete denuclearization,” while indicating sanctions by the U.N. Security Council on the reclusive country should stay in place.


“We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in North Korea but it is also important to remember that sanctions did not create the humanitarian crisis in that country,” the envoy said.

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