TOKYO: North Korea will send a team to next year’s Winter Olympics in neighbouring South Korea, the country’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) member has said.
Pyeongchang will stage Asia’s first Winter Games outside Japan next year, kicking off an Olympic cycle that reflects the continent’s growing influence on sport with Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer Games and Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympics.
North and South Korea are still technically at war and tensions have risen in the last week with the North’s test firing of a ballistic missile in contravention of United Nations resolutions.
North Korea have sent seven athletes to Japan for the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, which starts on Sunday, and IOC member Chang Ung told reporters the nation would also be represented in Pyeongchang next year.
“There is no reason why we won’t come (to Pyeongchang) and no reason why we can’t,” Chang told Kyodo News. “We will proceed according to the Olympic Charter.”
The North boycotted the 1988 Summer Games held in Seoul, but have sent teams to Asian Games hosted in the South in 2002 and 2014.
The two countries have also shown solidarity at recent Olympics, marching together under one flag in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games.
North Korea have won just two medals at the Winter Olympics, with the last in 1992 in Albertville. They did not participate at the last Games in Sochi in Russia in 2014.
The seven athletes at the Asian Winter Games will compete in short track speed skating and figure skating.
Pyeongchang is only 80 kilometres from the border with North Korea.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Napier; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)