South Korea welcomes North Korea’s participation in Olympics

January 21, 2018 12:28 am
Hyon Song-Wol (C), leader of ’s popular Moranbong Band, arrives at the Gangneung Arts Center where one of the planned musical concerts is due to be held, in the eastern city of Gangneung, South , on January 21, 2018. (AFP photo)
Authorities in have welcomed North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics as a major step toward settlement of disputes between the two neighbors, especially those concerning Pyongyang’s development of weapons.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement released on Sunday that a confirmation by the International Committee (IOC) that North Korean athletes will be present in the next month’s Winter Games would be a great help to efforts led by President Moon Jae-in to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“North Korea’s participation in the Olympics will be a catalyst for building peace and easing tensions on the Korean peninsula,” said the statement, adding, “President Moon has previously stressed that the Pyeongchang Olympics should be an important turning point in solving North Korea’s missile issues.”
The statement came hours after a delegation of seven North Korean officials started a visit to the South to inspect facilities that are to host Pyongyang’s art performance group during the Olympics. The delegation of seven arrived in Seoul under heavy police deployment and then traveled to Gangwon Province, which includes Pyeongchang, on board a train to check venues for the 140-strong art troupe. The North Koreans had been expected on Saturday but they cancelled just hours before the visit and it was re-coordinated through a cross-border hotline.
The North’s participation in the Winter Games comes amid a historic escalation of tensions over the country’s nuclear and missile program. Top officials from the United States, a major ally of the South, became engaged in bitter exchanges of threats with Pyongyang late last year when the North carried out a series of advanced missile tests and its most powerful nuclear one.
Seoul hopes the Olympics, which will come from February 9 to 25, would provide it with a breath to start a détente and engage in talks with the North for easing the tensions.
The IOC confirmed Saturday that 22 athletes from North Korea would be allowed to compete in three and five disciplines. None of the athletes had made it to the games through normal qualifications.
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