North Korea’s Olympic representative has reportedly said the reclusive nation is “likely to participate” in next month’s Winter Games in South Korea.
The comments by Chang Ung, Pyongyang’s representative to the International Olympic Committee, come a day after the North and South agreed to hold rare talks next week and hours after Seoul and Washington announced they would postpone joint military exercises that rile North Korea.
The Japanese news agency Kyodo said Chang made the brief comment to reporters during a stopover at Beijing’s international airport.
Kyodo said Chang was believed to be travelling to Switzerland, where the IOC is based.
It quoted unnamed sources saying the trip may be aimed at meeting with the IOC to discuss the North’s potential participation in the games at Pyeongchang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said in a new year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from 9-25 February, and would consider sending a delegation.
The two Koreas have been separated by the world’s most heavily militarised border since the Korean war ended in 1953.
Seoul and organisers are keen for the North to take part in the games to help ease worsening tensions on the Korean peninsula stemming from Kim’s confrontation with the world over his country’s nuclear and missile programmes.
In recent months, North Korea has held multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test – purportedly of a hydrogen bomb – in violation of UN resolutions banning such activity.
But the new year has brought a marked softening of tone on both sides.