North Korea's main sports body reaffirmed its decision not to send a cheerleading squad to the upcoming Asian Games, putting the blame on South Korea.
The North's Olympic Committee accused Seoul of "abusing sacred sports and cultural exchange" for a "sinister political purpose.
"The DPRK was compelled to give up the decision to send the cheerleading squad as they (South Korean authorities) decried it decision, far from rejoicing over and welcoming its sincerity," the committee said in a statement issued Friday. It was translated into English and carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) a day later.
It claimed that the South Korean government is not telling the truth about the North's cancellation of plans to dispatch 350 cheerleaders to the games set to open next month in the South's western port city of Incheon.
Although South Korean officials were informed of the decision well before related news reports, it said, they have pretended to be unaware, according to the committee.
On Friday, Seoul's unification ministry expressed strong regret over Pyongyang's decision.
It said the South would welcome the North's cheerleaders and athletes to Incheon and promised to provide necessary support.
The committee's statement, however, dashed hopes that the North's officials will again change their minds to dispatch a cheerleading team.
Pyongyang said it would send a 273-member delegation of athletes, coaches, referees and other officials to the Asian Games as scheduled. They plan to arrive in South Korea by air.
The issue of cheerleaders is apparently more sensitive amid concerns here that Pyongyang may seek to use them for political propaganda in the South, where ideological conflict over the communist neighbor is prevalent. (Yonhap)