North Korea to send delegation to South Korean Winter Olympics

Kim Jong-un agrees to country's athletes taking part in Games and could even attend opening ceremony himself

Benjamin Kentish
Monday 01 January 2018 17:25
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Kim Jong-un signals 'path to dialogue open' with South as he warns US of 'nuclear button'

North Korea will take part in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea after Kim Jong-un agreed to send a delegation to the Games.

In a move that could help ease tensions between the two countries, the North Korean President said the event, which will be held in February, “will be a good occasion for the country”.

Speaking in a televised address on New Year’s Day, he added: “We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success.

"We have readiness to take various steps, including the dispatch of the delegation."

North Korea will hold talks with its southern neighbour about its participation in the games, he added.

There is some speculation Mr Kim himself could travel to South Korea for the opening ceremony on 9 February.

The North Korean leader is a keen skier, having learnt during his time at school in Switzerland. His love of the sport led him to build the Masikryong ski resort in the south-east of his country.

The games will take place in PyeongChang in South Korea – less than 40 miles from the border with North Korea. Only two North Korean athletes have so far qualified for the contest: ice skating duo Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik.

Mr Kim also used his address to reignite his war of words with Donald Trump.

"The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk," he said.

He called on South Korea to postpone planned military training exercise with the US. The South’s president, Moon Jae-in, has previously suggested the manoeuvres could be halted in an attempt to ease tensions with North Korea and persuade it not to try to disrupt the PyeongChang games.

However, James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, said there were no plans to cancel the drills.

Sport has previously been used to try to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, representatives of the North and the South marched together at the opening ceremony behind a banner that said simply “Korea”.

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