Kim Jong Un is committed to sending North Korean teams to the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics, IOC chief Thomas Bach said Saturday after a rare meeting with the leader of the nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang.
Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, also said the IOC will make a proposal for a ‘potential joint march’ and other shared activities between the North and South Korean teams at the 2020 Games in Japan.
Last month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea saw competitors from the two countries march together at the opening ceremony and field a joint women’s ice hockey team.
The Winter Games triggered a fast-moving rapprochement that will see Kim sit down with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in late April, with a US summit with President Donald Trump planned for May.
Bach told reporters after landing in Beijing that his talks with Kim on Friday had been ‘very open and fruitful’.
‘They announced (to) us that they will definitely participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as well at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022’ and all editions of the Youth Olympic Games, Bach said.
‘And this commitment was fully supported by the supreme leader,’ he said.
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said Kim thanked Bach for helping to bring about a ‘dramatic thawing’ of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Bach arrived in the country on Thursday and his visit, which concluded Saturday, was the result of an invitation extended by Pyongyang in January.
The isolated regime rarely hosts foreign dignitaries but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomacy, with Kim making his first foreign trip as leader to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and inviting him to visit Pyongyang.
Kim’s Olympic overtures follow Japanese media reports earlier this month of Tokyo exploring the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the North Korean leader after the surprise announcement of a proposed summit with Trump.
Tokyo has long maintained a hardline position on negotiations with the North, while Pyongyang in turn has threatened to ‘sink’ Japan into the sea and to turn it into ‘ashes’, sending two missiles flying over the country last year.
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