[July 18, 2014]SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea
threatened on Friday to pull out of the Asian Games due to take place in
rival South Korea later this year, accusing the South of plotting to
block its athletes from taking part.
A rare meeting between the two sides on Thursday ended with no
agreement on the size of the North's contingent, which is expected
to include about as many cheerleaders as athletes.
Local media said the North had proposed sending 350 athletes and the
same number of cheerleaders to the games, scheduled for Sept. 19 to
Oct. 4 in the port of Incheon. The numbers were larger than those
earlier provided by Pyongyang.
The North's official KCNA news agency said negotiators from the
South, acting at the behest of President Park Geun-hye's office, had
made "absurd assertions" at the talks in the truce village of
Pammunjon on the heavily militarized border.
KCNA said progress registered earlier in the day had been overturned
by calls by the South's envoys to "follow international practice"
and suggestions that "the scope of the delegation is too big". "The
DPRK side branded such attitude of the South side as a deliberate
act to bring the working talks to a rupture and prevent the DPRK
from taking part in the games," it said. DPRK is short for the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"It clarified that if the South side insists on such a defiant
attitude, it will fundamentally re-examine its participation in the
The meeting was also meant to discuss transportation and
accommodation for the North's contingent. The cheerleaders have
proved a huge attraction in rare appearances in the South since the
end of the 1950-1953 war, with tightly choreographed gymnastic
routines and messages of peace and unification.
In 2005, Pyongyang sent 101 cheerleaders, including Ri Sol Ju, who
has since married North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to the Asian
Athletics Championships in Incheon.
Athletes from the North and South have paraded together at several
sporting events under a "unification flag" used specifically for
that purpose. Joint marches took place at three editions of the
Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
North Korea is subject to U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear
programs and has threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test.
Its leaders demand the South halt routine joint military drills with
the United States. South Korea has urged the North to take steps to
end its nuclear program.
North Korea routinely threatens to destroy its neighbor, though it
has recently proposed steps to ease tension. It has, however, test
fired several short-range missiles and rockets over the past three
weeks and threatened to pursue the tests.