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  • Government Talks on Joint Korean Team on Hold


    (ATR) Inter-Korean talks that would include discussions on joint teams at the 2018 Asian Games have been scuttled over recent diplomatic squabbles.

    The Unified Opening Cermeony Team marches into PyeongChang 2018 (ATR)
    At the third Inter-Korean summit last month, the two Koreas pledged to have regular dialogue on a number of issues. The first of those meetings was scheduled for May 16, but was cancelled at the last minute over North Korea's unhappiness with military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.

    The dispute stemmed from the inclusion of B-52 bombers in regularly scheduled drills, according to Yonhap and Kyodo News. However, further statements from North Korean officials through the country's state-run news agency expressed displeasure with potential solutions being presented ahead of the U.S.-North Korean summit. The statements went as far to suggest North Korea could cancel the summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

    Recent comments by North Korean defector Thae Yong-ho were cited as a reason to cancel the talks by North Korean officials. Thae released a memoir this week and told the South Korean National Assembly he is skeptical of North Korea’s intentions with any denuclearization plan, according to South Korean news sources.

    "Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of South Korea," Ri Son-gwon, the North Korean official for Inter-Korean affairs, was quoted as saying in the Korean Central News Agency.

    Since the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic détente and last month’s Inter-Korean summit, both Koreas are pursuing joint teams at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. A joint ceremonies march would not be unprecedented, but sport leaders met last week in Lausanne to discuss with Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad joint competition teams.

    Lee Kee-Heung, President of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee, told Yonhap that joint teams were a possibility only in sports where extra competition spots would not have to be allocated. The directive from the OCA came during the joint talks.

    According to Yonhap seven South Korean sports federations expressed interest in forming joint teams in Jakarta. The South Korean Table Tennis Association has been one of the more vocal federations, according to South Korean reports, in creating a joint team. The North and South Korean women’s team recently united during the 2018 Team Table Tennis World Championships in Sweden. However, any unified team would require extra athlete spots be allocated.

    "Unless roster spots are added, some South Korean athletes who have been preparing for the Asian Games may suffer," Lee was quoted as saying upon his return to South Korea. “Even if we get to have joint Korean teams with expanded rosters, it may stir controversy that giving us extra athletes isn't fair.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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