North Korean leader Kim Jong Un suggested Monday that the North may send a delegation to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Kim, wearing a Western-style gray suit and tie, called in his customary annual address for improved relations with the South, an idea mentioned in speeches more often than it is met.
“The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country,” Kim said, according to Yonhap News Agency. “We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success.
“We are ready to take various steps, including the dispatch of the delegation. To this end, the two Koreas can immediately meet.”
They mark the first widely reported comments from Kim suggesting North Korea’s Olympic participation and discussions with South Korea on the matter.
South Korea’s presidential office said it welcomed the proposal to hold talks between government officials over the issue of North Korea sending a delegation to the Olympics.
The office of President Moon Jae-in said the successful hosting of the PyeongChang Olympics would contribute to peace and harmony not only on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, but in the entire world.
In April, the governor of PyeongChang’s province reportedly said that a North Korean sports ministry official told him that North Korean athletes will be in PyeongChang.
In February, the North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee reportedly said he believed that a North Korean delegation would be at PyeongChang.
North Korea boycotted the only other Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Games in Seoul in 1988.
Since, North Korean athletes have participated in major sporting events in South Korea, including the 2002 and 2014 Asian Games.
North Korea qualified its first athletes for PyeongChang in September — pairs figure skaters — but then missed a deadline to confirm use of those spots.
The IOC could extend a special invitation to the pairs skaters — or North Korean athletes in other sports — to join the Olympic field.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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