North Korea ‘likely’ to join Winter Games: IOC official

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North Korea’s representative to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Saturday that the reclusive nation was “likely to participate” in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese news agency said Pyongyang’s IOC representative Chang Ung made the brief comment to reporters during a stopover at Beijing’s international airport.

Kyodo said Chang was believed to be travelling to Switzerland, where the IOC is based.

It quoted unnamed sources saying the trip may be aimed at meeting with the IOC to discuss the North’s potential participation in the Games at Pyeongchang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said in a New Year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from February 9-25, and would consider sending a delegation.

Seoul and organisers are keen for the North to take part to help ease worsening tensions on the Korean peninsula stemming from Kim’s confrontation with the world over his country’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The two Koreas have been separated by the world’s most heavily militarised border since the Korean War ended in a stalemate in 1953.