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South Korea Suggests Combined Olympics Women's Hockey Team With North


FILE - A man walks by the Olympic rings with a sign of 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 3, 2017.

South Korea has suggested the formation of a combined women's hockey team with North Korea to compete at the Winter Olympics next month, a potential landmark development in relations between the bitter rivals.

The proposal was made on Tuesday when delegations from both countries held talks at the border village of Panmunjom and acknowledged Saturday by North Korea's representative to the International Olympic Committee, Chang Ung.

"That's a topic under discussion at the IOC," Chang told reporters at Beijing's international airport. Chang was returning to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang following a visit to the Olympic governing body's headquarters in Switzerland. Chang did not say whether North Korea supported the proposal.

After their first formal discussions in more than two years, both countries agreed on Tuesday that the North would participate in the games and to hold military talks to improve relations.

The agreements were reached at high-level inter-Korean talks held Tuesday in Panmunjom, the so-called "peace village" straddling the border where the 1953 armistice that ended the fighting in the Korean War was signed.

FILE - A South Korean player (white jersey) struggles for the puck during a women's ice hockey match at the fifth Winter Asian Games in Misawa, Japan, Feb. 3, 2003. Seoul has proposed a joint North-South Korean women's hockey team for the Pyeongchang Olympics next month.
FILE - A South Korean player (white jersey) struggles for the puck during a women's ice hockey match at the fifth Winter Asian Games in Misawa, Japan, Feb. 3, 2003. Seoul has proposed a joint North-South Korean women's hockey team for the Pyeongchang Olympics next month.

The rival nations have formed joint sports teams only twice before - both times in 1991 - when they participated together in a youth soccer tournament and a table-tennis championship. Previous negotiating sessions designed to send a joint team to the Olympics were not successful.

The neighboring countries are expected have further discussions about the proposal at Panmunjom on Monday after agreeing on Saturday to hold working-level discussions on the North Korean side of the peace village. South Korea's unification ministry said in a statement Saturday that the delegation will discuss the prospects of the North sending its performance art group to the Games.

Separately, the IOC has suggested a meeting be held on January 20 at its Switzerland headquarters to discuss the North's participation in the Games, which will be held February 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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