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Koreas Will Not March Together at Opening of Winter Paralympics

Volunteers and performers gather with Paralympic mascot Bandabi for a photo after taking part in a welcome ceremony at the Pyeongchang Olympic Village ahead of the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, March 8, 2018.

The Korea Paralympic Committee said Thursday North and South Korea will not march together at Friday's opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics because of a disagreement over whether to include islands which are in a dispute with Japan on a united flag.

In dispute are South Korea-controlled islands in the Sea of Japan that are also claimed by Japan.

The committee said after lengthy talks with both Koreas the North "cannot accept the fact that it is not allowed to display Dokdo in the unification flag during the Games." South Korea gave the islands the name Dokdo while Japan calls them Takeshima.

The International Paralympics Committee responded to Pyongyang's claim, saying the North and South will march separately as the flag cannot be changed.

Athletes from both Koreas marched together at the opening of February's Winter Olympics under a neutral "unification flag" as part of reconciliation efforts that saw the North send hundreds of cheerleaders and leader Kim Jong Un's sister to the ceremony.

South Korea responded by sending President Moon Jae-in's special envoys to Pyongyang, where Kim informed them of his willingness to discuss denuclearization with the United States.