IOC head to visit N.Korea

Trip ex­pected to ex­tend a post-Games olive branch

Global Times - - Front Page - By Li Ruo­han

In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC) Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach will visit North Korea af­ter the Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympic Games as part of an agree­ment be­tween the IOC and North and South Korea, a sig­nal the Games are con­tin­u­ing to ease ten­sions be­tween the two Koreas.

A source told Reuters the trip would be “some­time af­ter the Olympic Games,” which will end on Fe­bru­ary 25. The source did not com­ment on the agenda for the visit.

The visit shows that ne­go­ti­a­tions to ease ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula dur­ing the Win­ter Olympics have been suc­cess­ful, Lü Chao, a re­search fel­low with the Liaon­ing Academy of So­cial Sciences, told the Global Times on Mon­day.

The visit is ex­pected to ex­tend the peace­ful at­mos­phere af­ter the Games, said Lü, adding that any progress made dur­ing the visit will help counter the an­i­mos­ity gen­er­ated by the up­com­ing mil­i­tary drills be­tween the US and South Korea.

Com­pared with other in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the UN, the IOC is less po­lit­i­cal, and sports ex­changes could also serve as the first step for North Korea to step out of iso­la­tion and be more open to in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety, said Lü.

North Korea could well ac­cept the ges­ture as an olive branch and con­sider re­strain­ing its nu­clear am­bi­tion, said Lü.

North Korea’s top leader Kim Jong-un, a bas­ket­ball fan, has boosted spend­ing on sports as part of his am­bi­tion to trans­form North Korea into a “sports power,” Reuters re­ported.

North Korea agreed to par­tic­i­pate in the Pyeongchang Games af­ter host South Korea and the IOC en­cour­aged Py­ongyang to come to the games as a ges­ture of peace.

Ath­letes from North and South Korea, which are tech­ni­cally still at war, marched to­gether at the Games’ 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.

Pos­i­tive role

Ex­perts noted that for­eign coun­tries out­side the penin­sula should also play a pos­i­tive role in help­ing sus­tain the peace­ful at­mos­phere.

The US is key to how long and how far th­ese new-found in­ter-Korea re­la­tions can go, and South Korea needs to try harder to per­suade the US to re­lax its stance, Zheng Jiy­ong, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Korean Stud­ies at Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity, told the Global Times on Mon­day.

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 in which they would take part, the size and com­po­si­tion of their del­e­ga­tions and their joint march of ath­letes dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony.

The agree­ment was seen as a break­through given the Koreas had not par­tic­i­pated un­der one flag at an Olympics in more than 12 years.

South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in hosted two of North Korea’s most se­nior of­fi­cials at the Games’ open­ing cer­e­mony, in­clud­ing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sis­ter. Moon warmly shook hands with her and later held talks with her in Seoul.

Kim Jong-un has in­vited Moon for talks in Py­ongyang, set­ting the stage for the first meet­ing of Korean lead­ers in more than a decade.

The thaw in re­la­tions has so far only cen­tered on the Olympics, but a se­nior Amer­i­can mem­ber of the IOC said the joint ice hockey team should be nom­i­nated for the No­bel Peace Prize.

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