Japan to consider allowing North Korean athletes entry for Tokyo 2020

Featured Japan to consider allowing North Korean athletes entry for Tokyo 2020

The Japanese Government is set to carry out a review over whether to allow North Korean athletes entry to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games as an exception to the country's sanctions against the secretive state.

Japan's Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada revealed the plan for a review during a lower house session.

"The Olympics and Paralympics is the world's largest peace event, and it is desirable to have as many participants as possible," he was reported as saying by Kyodo News.

Sakurada said the move "requires the understanding of all quarters".

He added that he will work with the relevant Ministries and agencies to carefully deal with the matter.

Japan has banned North Korean nationals from entering the country as part of sanctions owing to Pyongyang's development of missiles and nuclear weapons.

A total of 17 Japanese citizens are officially recognised by the country's Government as having been abducted by agents of the North Korean Government during a period of six years from 1977 to 1983.

It is suspected that the actual number of victims is far higher, possibly numbering in the hundreds.

Relations between the two countries were further strained in 2017 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fired two ballistic missiles over Japanese territory as part of his country's nuclear testing.

Japan's Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada said the move to allow North Korean athletes entry to Tokyo 2020 requires the understanding of all quarters ©Getty Images
Japan's Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada said the move to allow North Korean athletes entry to Tokyo 2020 requires the understanding of all quarters ©Getty Images

North Korean athletes are expected to participate at the Tokyo 2020 Games, while they are also set to join forces with South Korean competitors to form joint teams in three sports - women's basketball, canoeing and rowing.

South Korea's Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong Hwan said in December that united teams could also be formed in table tennis, judo and "possibly other sports".

Sakurada's remarks today come after Tokyo 2020 organisers said yesterday it had given North Korea access to information on participation in next year's Olympics and Paralympics.

The ID and password needed to access the private internet network used by organisers and National Olympic Committees since 2016 to share information had been withheld from the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK NOC). 

"The North Korean NOC had been unable to use the special website due to technical problems, but we were able to resolve the problems," Sakurada said.

Kyodo News reports that a negotiator for the DPRK NOC has said it had been asking for the ID and password since around September 2018.

The DPRK NOC claimed the incident is a "violation of the spirit of the Olympic Charter".

It also said it was contemplating the possibility of lodging an official complaint to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In April, it was stated by Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission chairman John Coates that the IOC would stay "politically neutral" towards North Korea's involvement at the Games.

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