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DPRK threatening to pull out of Asian Games

By Reuters in Seoul | China Daily | Updated: 2014-07-19 06:48

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea threatened on Friday to pull out of the Asian Games set to take place in the Republic of Korea later this year, accusing Seoul of plotting to block its athletes from taking part.

A rare meeting between the two sides on Thursday ended with no agreement on the size of the DPRK's contingent, which is expected to include about as many cheerleaders as athletes.

ROK media said Pyongyang had proposed sending 350 athletes and the same number of cheerleaders to the games, scheduled for Sept 19 to Oct 4 in the port of Incheon. The numbers were larger than those earlier provided by Pyongyang.

The DPRK's official KCNA news agency said negotiators from Seoul, acting at the behest of ROK President Park Geun-hye's office, had made "absurd assertions" at the talks in the truce village of Panmunjon on the heavily militarized border.

KCNA said progress registered earlier in the day had been overturned by calls by ROK envoys to "follow international practice" and suggestions that "the scope of the delegation is too big".

"The DPRK side branded such attitude of the ROK side as a deliberate act to bring the working talks to a rupture and prevent the DPRK from taking part in the games," it said.

"It clarified that if the ROK side insists on such a defiant attitude, it will fundamentally re-examine its participation in the games."

The meeting was also meant to discuss transportation and accommodations for the DPRK contingent. The cheerleaders have proved a huge attraction in rare appearances in the ROK since the end of the 1950-53 war, with tightly choreographed gymnastic routines and messages of peace and unification.

In 2005, Pyongyang sent 101 cheerleaders, including Ri Sol-ju, who has since married DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, to the Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon.

Athletes from the neighbors have paraded together at several sporting events under a "unification flag" used specifically for that purpose. Joint marches took place at three editions of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

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