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IOC president to visit North Korea after Winter Games

Thomas Bach

Pyoengchang, February 12: In a growing sign of thaw in relations, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has decided to visit North Korea after the conclusion of the ongoing Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang.

Korean unity an Olympic and world movement - Bach

Bach was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency that he would make the visit on the North's invitation as part of an agreement between the IOC and both North and South Korea. The parties were still discussing a convenient date, he added.

The Games in South Korea, which began on February 9 will end on 25.

At the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Games, North and South Korean leaders swapped handshakes and smiles, enabling the IOC to present the Games as enablers of peace.

"All the parties concerned have welcomed this invitation to North Korea," Bach said.

"We're talking about this convenient date in order to continue the dialogue on the sports side. We'll see when this is going to happen."

It may be recalled that North Korea agreed to participate in Pyeongchang after the South and IOC encouraged the heavily sanctioned state to participate as a gesture of peace.

Athletes from both sides, technically still at war, marched together at the opening ceremony and have fielded a unified women's ice hockey team, the first time an inter-Korean team has competed at any Olympic Games.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been using the Games in his efforts to break the ice with the North and pave the way for talks over the North's weapons program.

"We can set the symbols, we can show that it's worthwhile sitting down together discussing, negotiating, and that then you can come to a good result," Bach added.

"For our side, for the sports side, this dialogue will continue..," he said, adding that the IOC was in constant dialogue with North Korea's national Olympic committee.

The IOC and the two Koreas signed a tripartite agreement on January 20 in Lausanne that set out the details of North Korea's Olympic participation, including the number of athletes, the sports they would take part in as well as their joint march.

The agreement was seen as a breakthrough given the Koreas had not marched together at an Olympics for more than 12 years.

The thaw in relations has centered on the Olympics, with a senior American member of the IOC calling for the joint ice hockey team, which included 12 North Korean players, to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Right from the start, concerns over North Korea have overshadowed the Winter Games, which Seoul and the organisers have proclaimed a "peace Olympics", urging Pyongyang to participate, unlike the 1988 Summer Olympics in the South, which it boycotted.

(With inputs from Agencies).

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    Story first published: Monday, February 12, 2018, 16:52 [IST]
    Other articles published on Feb 12, 2018
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