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North Korea in Asian Games talks with South

IAN RANSOM
Last updated 02:00 27/08/2014

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South Korea has re-joined thorny negotiations over North Korea's participation at next month's Asian Games after the North agreed to scale down the size of its delegation last week, state media reported on Tuesday (local time).

North Korea had threatened to pull out of the Sept. 19-Oct. 4 Games to be held in the South Korean city of Incheon, blaming the South for scuppering rare talks over the terms of hosting their large delegation of athletes and officials.

However, the North asked via letter exchanges last week to resume talks and said it would trim its delegation down to 273 from the 352 submitted to the Olympic Council of Asia earlier this month, South Korean media reported, citing the country's Unification Ministry, which handles ties with Pyongyang.

South Korean Games organisers had sent a two-page letter to the North through the liaison office at the truce village of Panmunjom on the heavily militarised border, Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday, citing a senior official at the Unification Ministry.

One possible stumbling block over the delegation's travel plans was also cleared by the official, however.

"Our stance is that there is no problem with the North's plan to use the Yellow Sea route for a flight carrying the delegation," Yonhap quoted the unnamed official as saying.

"Other working issues were included (in the letter) as well."

A major impediment has been who will foot the bill for hosting North Korea's delegation.

Yonhap said the official had indicated the South was willing to show "some flexibility" on the matter.

"We will review relevant issues in accordance with a position to provide assistance necessary for the North Korean athletes and coaches to join the games," the official said.

North Korea, which is still technically at war with the South after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, is sending 150 athletes to Incheon.

The reclusive country, which remains under heavy UN sanctions related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, won four gold medals in judo and weightlifting at the 2012 London Olympics to finish 20th on the table.

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- Reuters

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