SEOUL: North Korea said Friday it will send athletes to this year’s Asian Games in South Korea, the first time it has participated in a major sporting event there for more than a decade and despite simmering tensions between the neighbours.
“The Olympic Committee of the DPRK (North Korea)… decided to dispatch DPRK players’ group to the 17th Asian Games” in Incheon, South Korea, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The North’s Olympic Committee has officially informed the Asian Olympic Council of its decision, KCNA said.
Pyongyang boycotted the 1988 Olympics in Seoul but sent athletes and cheerleaders to the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea’s southern port city of Busan.
South Korea had invited the North to participate in this year’s Asian Games, which it is hosting from September 19 to October 4, through the Olympic Council of Asia, the governing body for all sports in Asia.
Tension has been running high between Pyongyang and Seoul for months, with the South accusing the North on Thursday of firing shells into waters near one of its warships as it patrolled south of the disputed Yellow Sea border.
The North on Friday rejected the allegation as “sheer fabrication”, with the South in turn accusing it of a “blatant lie”.
The neighbours have also upped the ante in their verbal exchanges over crashed spy drones recently recovered in South Korea, while there have been fears that Pyongyang may be preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test.