Pyongyang says two Koreas could co-host 2021 Winter Asian Games

A senior North Korean sports official says North and South Koreas could co-host the 2021 Winter Asian Games, as bilateral ties improved with this year’s Olympic Games hosted by the South.

South Korea has been hosting the PyeongChang Olympic Games, in which North Korea also participated amid a thaw in relations. The Games provided an opportunity for the two Koreas to put aside long-running hostilities; and there has been hope that the thaw would continue after the Winter Olympic Games.

The governor of South Korea’s Gangwon Province, where PyeongChang is located, had said at the weekend that he was considering a bid for the two countries to co-host the next winter Asiad, noting that the Masikryong ski resort in North Korea could be used for that purpose.

Chang Ung, the North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), welcomed the idea, saying it was “sufficiently possible.”

“Since a smaller number of countries participate in the Asian Games, it would be easier than the Olympics,” Yonhap news agency quoted the North Korean official as saying in Beijing on his way back to Pyongyang.

Chang hailed the PyeongChang Games as “perfect,” noting that, “The Olympics are a great success, thanks to unity achieved by the Korean people.”

North Korea Kim Ryon-hyang competes in the Women’s Slalom at the Jeongseon Alpine Center during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, in PyeongChang, on February 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Asian Winter Games is held every four years. The hosts for the 2021 event will be selected at this year’s Summer Asian Games in Indonesia in August.

US-South Korea drills to be resumed

The rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula is, however, threatened by the resumption of the South Korean-US military drills, which North Korea has long considered rehearsals for an invasion.

Washington and Seoul confirmed on Tuesday that the so-called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises — which usually begin in late February or early March — would be resumed after the Paralympics.

The South’s defense minister, Song Young-moo, told the National Assembly that the start date would be declared by the two countries between the end of the Paralympics on March 18 and the beginning of April, according to a ministry spokesman.

“The date for the postponed exercises — Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — will be announced after the Paralympics,” a US Forces Korea spokesman said, noting, “The exercises have been postponed, not scrapped.”

The US military presence on the Korean Peninsula has long been a major irritant to the North, and the postponement of the regular drills until after the Olympics were only meant to accommodate Pyongyang’s participation.

South and North Koreas have been divided since the three-year Korean War came to an end in 1953. The conflict ended with an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty and left many families separated at the two sides.

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