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North Korea calls off joint Olympic event with South

North Korea has cancelled a joint cultural performance with artists from the South Korea, Seoul officials have said. 

South Korea’s unification ministry on Monday said that Pyongyang had called off an event set to take place at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang on February 4 as part of a series of events in the lead up to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, South Korea’s official news agency Yonhap reported.

Seoul called the “unilateral” move “very regrettable”. 

Yonhap said North Korea cited “biased” media reports as a reason to cancel the performance. 

South Korean media had expressed concern that the joint events could be in violation of UN Security Council sanctions in place against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme, Yonhap reported.

Pyongyang reportedly also took issue with South Korean reports regarding an “internal event”, an apparent reference to a military parade possibly taking place on February 8 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army, Yonhap said. 

On Friday, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon called the potential parade, scheduled one day before the start of the Olympics, “intimidating”.

“Kim Jong-un apparently wants to show his absolute power,” Yonhap quoted Cho as saying. 

Conciliatory moves

Pyongyang’s decision comes after a series of conciliatory moves between the two Koreas. 

On January 9, they held the first high-level talks in more than two years. 

In what was described as a major diplomatic breakthrough, North Korea said it would send a delegation of athletes and performers to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Just over a week later, the Koreas announced they would form a joint women’s ice hockey team to participate in the Olympics and that they would march together under a “unification flag” at the opening ceremony of the games.  

Both Koreas have appeared together at the openings of previous Olympic Games, but this would be the first joint team in one sport.

The rapprochement followed months of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula over multiple missile launches carried out by North Korea, as well as the purported test of a hydrogen bomb. 

The Olympic Games will run from February 9 to 25 in Pyeongchang, a city just 80km from the border between the two Koreas.

According to Yonhap, North Korea is set to host a group of skiers from its southern neighbour for a joint training session from Wednesday. The agency said it is currently unclear whether this and other scheduled events will be held. 

 

ALJAZEERA

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