By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korean Olympic officials arrived in Switzerland on Thursday ahead of weekend talks at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to finalize Pyongyang’s participation in the Winter Games in South Korea next month.
North Korea’s involvement, marching under the same flag with the South Korean team, is seen by some as a sign of easing tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program. But 20 nations agreed on Tuesday to consider tougher sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Guk Kim Il, President of the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), arrived at Geneva’s Cointrin airport on a flight from Beijing, but made no comments to reporters.
North Korean IOC member Chang Ung met the delegation. Asked whether he expected North Korea and South Korea to settle outstanding issues at Saturday’s talks, he appeared optimistic.
“Everything’s fine,” he told Reuters.
The IOC has said that Saturday’s meeting would take a series of “essential decisions” on the North’s participation at the Games that open in Pyeongchang on February 9.
These would include the number and names of athletes from the North Korean Olympic Committee as well as questions of protocol, including flags, ceremonies and uniform.
Only a figure skating pair from North Korea has secured a spot although several other athletes could qualify through special places offered by the Olympic body.
North and South Korea have already made progress in bilateral talks. They plan to march together under the same blue-and-white Korean peninsula flag, marking the revival of an emblem of warmer ties between the old foes from years past.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Ralph Boulton)