North Korea said Monday it would dispatch a squad of cheerleaders to the Asian Games scheduled for September in South Korea in a fresh conciliatory gesture following heightened military tension.
The reclusive country in May announced its participation in the 17th Asian Games, which will take place in Incheon from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4. Its cheering brigade will be introduced to the outside world for the first time since the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships, also held in the South Korean port city.
Seoul indicated its willingness to accept the plan and provide related support, though it is unlikely that a unified team will be formed given the lack of remaining preparation time.
“Our stance is that we support the success of the Asian Games,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said at a regular news briefing.
“We plan to make preparations necessary for the participation of North Korean athletes and cheerleaders in consultation with the steering committee (and) according to international customs.”
|A North Korean cheering squad (Yonhap)|
Pyongyang said its plan was designed to help “improve inter-Korean relations and foster a mood for the unity of the people,” while calling for an end to confrontation, slander and Seoul’s sanctions on cross-border exchanges.
“If our principled position and goodwill measures are realized, it will help normalize aggravated inter-Korean relations, ease the situation on the peninsula and bring about a turnaround for national reconciliation and unity,” the official Korea Central News Agency said.
The cheering squad will likely draw attention through their unique costumes and equipment and jazzed-up yet disciplined moves.
The North also sent a team of around 300 female students to the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu. Ri Sol-ju, the wife of leader Kim Jong-un, took part in the 2005 cheering in Incheon as a member of Kumsong Arts School.
The announcement is the latest in a string of overtures by the communist regime that coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul last week and the 42nd anniversary of the July 4 Joint Communique calling for efforts for better relations and future reunification.
Last week, the powerful National Defense Commission made what it called a special offer of a halt of military drills and slander on both sides of the border to “bring about a new turning point for reconciliation and cooperation.”
But Seoul snubbed the proposal, criticizing Pyongyang’s repeated launches of short-range missiles and calling for a “sincere” resolve to forsake its nuclear program rather than a token peace offensive.
“(North Korea) should come forward for dialogue with us, rather than repeat unreasonable claims,” spokesman Kim added.
“The argument is unconvincing that its nuclear weapons is not an obstacle to unification or better inter-Korean ties but will ensure the peace and prosperity of the people.”
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org