Safety first for South Korea

New Straits Times - - Sport -

SEOUL: South Korea is tak­ing steps to en­sure the safety of its foot­ballers and fans as national men’s and women’s teams pre­pare for matches in China and North Korea amid tense diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the Asian neigh­bours.

Seoul’s Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry said on Tues­day it had asked North Korea to pro­vide safety as­sur­ances for its play­ers ahead of next month’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup qual­i­fier in Py­ongyang.

“The gov­ern­ment has asked North Korea to pro­vide writ­ten as­sur­ances for the safety of South Korean foot­ball play­ers,” Yon­hap quoted a min­istry of­fi­cial as say­ing.

With the coun­tries still tech­ni­cally at war af­ter their 1950-53 con­flict ended in a truce and not a peace treaty, the Seoul gov­ern­ment must sign off on the team’s trip to Py­ongyang.

Ear­lier this month, a men’s Asian Cup qual­i­fier be­tween North Korea and Malaysia was post­poned af­ter the FA of Malaysia asked for the game to be moved away from Py­ongyang fol­low­ing a break­down in re­la­tions.

The coun­tries have be­come em­broiled in a sim­mer­ing row af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of Kim Jong Nam, the es­tranged half-brother of Py­ongyang ruler Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Feb 13.

The Seoul Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry’s com­ments fol­low re­ports that the South Korean em­bassy in Bei­jing had is­sued a safety warn­ing ahead of the men’s 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier in Hu­nan prov­ince to­day.

Re­la­tions be­tween Seoul and Bei­jing be­came strained af­ter South Korea reached an agree­ment with the United States on the de­ploy­ment of the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fence (THAAD) anti-mis­sile sys­tem.

The United States and South Korea say THAAD is for de­fence against North Korea but China fears its pow­er­ful radar can probe deep into its ter­ri­tory and com­pro­mise se­cu­rity.

Yon­hap said the em­bassy had is­sued a warn­ing to South Korean na­tion­als in China to ex­er­cise cau­tion ahead of the AFC third round Group A en­counter in Changsha. Reuters

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