Bach praises Moon's stance on North Korean participation at Pyeongchang 2018

SEOUL,03 JULY 2017 (INSIDE THE GAMES)--International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has praised South Korean President Moon Jae-in's stance on North Korean participation at Pyeongchang 2018 during "friendly" and "very fruitful" talks.

The duo met at the Blue House, Moon's official residence, with talks mainly focused on preparations for next year's Winter Olympics.

However, the topic of North Korea's participation at the Games was also discussed.

Last week, Bach spoke of his support for a unified Korean team at next year's Games, describing the idea as being "in the spirit of Olympism" while he attended the World Taekwondo Championships in Muju.

His visit came less than a week after Moon encouraged the participation of North Korea at Pyeongchang 2018 during a speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Championships.

Moon, who was elected as the country’s President after a cronyism scandal led to Park Geun-hye being impeached, pledged greater dialogue with the neighbouring country in a bid to reduce tensions between the two nations.

Following the talks between the two leaders, Bach once again reiterated his organisation's support of Moon's efforts to heal the fractured relationship between the two countries through sport.

"The IOC appreciates very much President Moon’s vision of how the Olympic Games can support dialogue and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and beyond," the German said.

"We can look forward to an excellent Olympic Winter Games from Korea to the world."

Relations on the Korean peninsula have deteriorated in recent months with the United States and North Korea trading threats as the latter nation's leader Kim Jong-un launched new missile tests despite repeated warnings to stop.

The US are activating a missile defence system in South Korea and tightened sanctions against the North in April.

During his visit to Muju, Bach said that the IOC had already invited North Korea to participate at Pyeongchang 2018 back in February.

He hinted that the IOC could give the country some "wildcard" entries if none of their athletes qualify for the Games.

The meeting also follows news that Pyeongchang 2018 will discuss plans for North Korea to stage competition during the Games following a suggestion from the Government.

South Korea’s Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan raised the prospect of working with North Korea in an effort to boost friendship.

One idea was for North Korea to host some skiing competitions at the Games.

According to the Korea Herald, he will discuss the prospect of North Korea hosting competitions at the Masikryong ski resort.

The possibility of a combined Korean women's ice hockey team has also been raised by Do.

When asked about the suggestions, North Korea's sole IOC member Chang Ung refused to speculate saying it is "not my place to comment on things related to the Pyeongchang Olympics".

However, it remains unlikely Pyeongchang 2018 would make a significant change to plans of this nature with just eight months to go before the Games, due to take place between February 9 and 25.....PACNEWS


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