NK wel­comes hoop­sters

Move to fur­ther deepen ties of Chi­nese, N.Kore­ans: ex­perts

Global Times US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Liu Xuanzun

A Chi­nese sports del­e­ga­tion fea­tur­ing Chi­nese Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Yao Ming ar­rived in North Korea on Mon­day for a good­will visit, with Chi­nese ex­perts say­ing on Tues­day that the move will fur­ther deepen the friend­ship be­tween the two peo­ples.

The del­e­ga­tion, com­posed of China’s men’s and women’s bas­ket­ball teams, was led by Gou Zhong­wen, head of Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport of China, the Korean Cen­tral News Agency re­ported on Tues­day. coun­tries’

They were “warmly wel­comed” by North Korean of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the coun­try’s Min­is­ter of Phys­i­cal Cul­ture and Sports Kim Il-guk, at Py­ongyang In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The Xin­hua News Agency re­ported on Fri­day that the visit was made pos­si­ble by the North Korean Min­is­ter of Phys­i­cal Cul­ture and Sports. The Chi­nese bas­ket­ball teams will play ex­hi­bi­tion games with their North Korean coun­ter­parts dur­ing the trip, Xin­hua said.

Chi­nese an­a­lysts said the sports del­e­ga­tion sent to North

Korea is the most prom­i­nent one in re­cent years and is a part of North Korea's “bas­ket­ball diplo­macy.”

Lü Chao, a re­search fel­low at the Liaon­ing Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, told the Global Times on Tues­day that send­ing such a high-pro­file Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion shows the rapid and pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment in bi­lat­eral ties.

The visit, at a time when Chi­naNorth Korea friendly re­la­tions are de­vel­op­ing on a new high stage, will con­trib­ute to strength­en­ing ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion in sports and deepen fra­ter­nal ties be­tween the peo­ples of the two coun­tries, the Korean Cen­tral News Agency said on Tues­day.

Zheng Jiy­ong, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Korean Stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai, told the Global Times on Tues­day that sports is a good way for the two coun­tries to com­mu­ni­cate as North Korea con­tin­ues to face UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil sanc- tions and the coun­try's abil­ity to co­op­er­ate in other fields re­main lim­ited.

“Many peo­ple may see sports be­tween coun­tries as reg­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. But when it comes to North Korea, the coun­try sees such ac­tiv­i­ties as a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in diplo­matic ties,” Zheng noted.

The sports del­e­ga­tion's visit is ex­pected to usher in a se­ries of more im­por­tant diplo­matic events be­tween China and North Korea, Lü said.

This is not the first time that China has sent bas­ket­ball teams to North Korea.

In May 2016, The Chi­nese men's Olympic bas­ket­ball team vis­ited North Korea and played three ex­hi­bi­tion games with a North Korean team, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in at­ten­dance, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment the Chi­nese Em­bassy in North Korea re­leased in May 2016.

“Kim Jong-un him­self is a bas­ket­ball en­thu­si­ast, and the sport is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar among North Kore­ans too,” Zheng said.

Yao, a ‘hit’ in N.Korea

Yao is not only the pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion but also a for­mer NBA star.

“Yao is a star among North Kore­ans … His pres­ence in the del­e­ga­tion is likely to be­come a hit in North Korea,” Lü said.

Yao's pres­ence will help boost ties be­tween China and North Korea, Lü noted.

An­other for­mer NBA star, Den­nis Rod­man, has “made a not-so-quiet im­pact” on US-North Korea re­la­tions since 2013 by trav­el­ing to the coun­try sev­eral times and meet­ing Kim Jongun, call­ing Kim Jong-un his “friend for life” and a “great guy,” the Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported in June.

Although Yao and Rod­man are help­ing de­velop ties with North Korea, Yao will achieve more sig­nif­i­cant re­sults, Lü pre­dicted.

Rod­man vis­ited North Korea on his own be­half, but Yao is vis­it­ing as part of an of­fi­cial Chi­nese sports del­e­ga­tion, Lü noted.

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