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North Korea, South Korea agree to march together at Winter Olympics

In this April 4, 2017, file photo, Olympic rings are seen in front of Gangneung Hockey Center in Gangneung, South Korea.   | Photo Credit: AP

The two Koreas will field a combined women’s ice hockey team and march together under one flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South, Seoul said on Wednesday, after a new round of talks amid a thaw in cross-border ties.

North and South Korea have been talking since last week — for the first time in more than two years — about the Olympics, offering a respite from a months-long standoff over Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear and missile programmes, although Japan urged caution over the North’s “charm offensive”.

The two Koreas will compete as a unified team in the Olympics for the first time, though they have joined forces at other international sports events before.

North Korea will send a delegation of more than 400, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondo players for a demonstration, a joint press statement released by Seoul’s Unification Ministry said, adding the precise number of athletes will be hammered out after discussions with the IOC.

Prior to the Games, the sides will carry out joint training for skiers at the North’s Masik Pass resort and a cultural event at the Mount Kumgang resort, for which Seoul officials plan to visit the sites next week.

The delegation is expected to begin arriving in South Korea on January 25, the statement said. The North will separately send a 150-strong delegation to the Paralympics.

Tougher sanctions

Twenty nations meeting in the Canadian city of Vancouver agreed on Tuesday to consider tougher sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the North it could trigger a military response if it did not choose dialogue.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the world should not be naive about North Korea’s “charm offensive” over the Olympics.

“It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea,” Mr. Kono said. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has refused to give up development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the U.S. in spite of increasingly severe U.N. sanctions, raising fears of a new war on the Korean Peninsula. The North has test-fired missiles over Japan.

In state media this week, the North warned the South of spoiling inter-Korean ties by insisting it gives up its nuclear weapons.

“We will work actively to improve North-South Korean relations but will not stand still to actions that are against unification,” the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

The South’s Unification Ministry said the two sides exchanged opinions on several issues, including the size of the North Korean athletics team and joint cultural events.

No peace treaty

On Tuesday, officials from North and South agreed a 140-person North Korean orchestra would perform in South Korea during the Games. Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South, Japan and their major ally, the U.S.

China, which did not attend the Vancouver meeting, said on Wednesday the gathering showed a Cold War mentality. “To convene a meeting where major parties to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue are not represented will not help promoting an appropriate resolution over the issue,” Lu Kang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday.

(With AP inputs)


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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 7:53:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/north-korea-south-korea-agree-to-march-together-at-winter-olympics/article22457477.ece

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