SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said on Monday the North will be given until the very last minute to decide on its participation at next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Moon, speaking as the countdown to Asia's first Winter Olympics outside Japan ticked down to 200 days, has been keen to get North Korea involved in the Feb. 9-25 event, despite none of its athletes meeting the qualification standards.
His proposal for a unified team has already been shot down by a top North Korean sports official as unrealistic due to the current political climate.
While the two Koreas technically remain at war, Moon, who came to power in May, has pledged to engage the North in dialogue as well as bring pressure to impede its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea claimed to have conducted the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month, and said it had mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile.
Moon urged the North to participate and said the international sporting community would welcome it at the Games.
"We will not rush nor be pessimistic, but will keep the doors open until the very last moment," Yonhap News quoted Moon as saying.
"The International Olympic Committee too has opened the doors for North Korea's participation, and now all that is left is North Korea's decision."
The IOC said earlier this month that it was trying to find ways for North Korean athletes to take part.
(Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)