Olympics committee secures North Korea's participation in next two games

President Thomas Bach travelled to Pyongyang on Thursday, the Olympic body said, in a visit that comes after North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Games helped ease inter-Korean relations.

International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach met with the North Korean sports minister during his visit to Pyongyang on Friday, the North's state media reported. The IOC said Bach's trip would last until March 31, and came on the heels of an invitation extended by Pyongyang in January.

Bach told reporters after landing in Beijing that his talks with Kim on Friday had been "very open and fruitful". The DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

The isolated, nuclear-armed regime rarely hosts foreign dignitaries but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomacy, with Kim making his first foreign trip as leader to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and inviting him to visit Pyongyang.

"This commitment has been fully supported by the supreme leader Kim Jong Un in a meeting we had this afternoon", he said.

Bach hoped that the IOC's relationship with the North's Olympic Committee would continue to develop favourable and expected cooperation in developing and improving sport in North Korea.

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Bach arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday to discuss development of sports in North Korea and the preparation of its athletes to qualify and participate in upcoming Olympics.

"The IOC will make a proposal for a potential joint march or potential other joint activities for Tokyo and then maybe also for Beijing at the appropriate time", he further said. The Olympics were largely seen as having contributed to easing the tensions between the two Koreas.

The news comes more than a month after North Korea agreed to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

A North Korean team has participated at every addition of the Summer Olympics since they boycotted Seoul 1988. After his summit with Moon, Kim is to meet President Donald Trump by May, though the date and location of that summit have not been announced.

The exact reasons behind Kim's seeming change of tactics remain something of a mystery.

Earlier in the day, President Bach met representatives of the DPRK NOC, led by its President, Kim Il-guk, who is also the country's Sports Minister. Of the 22 North Korean athletes who competed in the Pyeongchang Olympics, only two won places on merit and the other 20 were granted spots by the IOC.

  • Sonia Alvarado