N Korean athletes to fly South
Seoul: North Korean skiers and skaters were due to arrive in the South on Thursday to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Games, setting the stage for a "peace Olympics" after a year of high tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme. Eight days before the opening ceremony, 10 North Korean skiers and skaters were to fly in on a chartered Asiana Airlines plane, in a rare direct flight between the two halves of the divided peninsula — for which a special exemption had to be sought from US sanctions.
The three cross-country skiers, three alpine skiers, two short-track speed skaters and two figure skaters will accompany a South Korean delegation who held joint ski training at the North's Masikryong ski resort — a pet project of leader Kim Jong-Un — in the latest in a flurry of cross- border trips in the run-up to the Games.
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are being held in a hitherto little-known part of the South, but have triggered a sudden apparent rapprochement between the two Koreas.
In the past year tensions reached fever pitch as Pyongyang carried out a series of weapons tests — including intercontinental ballistic missiles that brought the US mainland into range, and its most powerful nuclear blast to date -- while Kim and US President Donald Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.
For months, the North ignored repeated entreaties from Seoul for it to take part in a "peace Olympics", letting deadlines for registration slip by. But in his New Year speech Kim finally expressed a willingness to send a delegation to Pyeongchang, triggering a rapid series of events.