The hermit nation of North Korea had no problems letting a visiting orchestra play the national anthem of its enemy the United States, but to allow its people to hear the anthem of its other half, South Korea, at a football match is a step too far.
Analysts say the Communist state, which considers the Korean peninsula a single nation whose southern half is temporarily adrift, is likely to call off a World Cup qualifying match between the two countries on 26 March rather than accede to its neighbour's demand to raise its own flag and play its anthem.
"North Korea will never let something that goes against its 'one-Korea' principle to happen in Pyongyang," said Yang Moo-jin, an expert on the North at the South's Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University.
The governments of the two Koreas have yet to sign a peace treaty to end the 1950-1953 war and each claims to be the rightful ruler of the entire peninsula.
Mr Yang said North Korea allowed the New York Philharmonic to play the US national anthem at a concert in Pyongyang last week because it sees its ties with the US as being state-to-state. By contrast, the South Korean government is an impediment to its rule over the whole of Korea.
North Korea has proposed instead playing a folk song treasured on both sides of the border and flying a joint flag used when they marched together at the Olympic Games.
South Korean officials have appealed to football's governing body, Fifa, to force North Korea to meet their demands. And there is media speculation in the South that the match will have to be played in China. reutersReuse content