Koreas to field joint teams at Asian Games

North and South Korea will also march together at the opening and closing ceremonies.

A united Korean team had also participated in the World Team Table Tennis Championships earlier this year.   -  AP

North and South Korea will field joint teams in three sports — canoeing, rowing and women's basketball — at the Asian Games, organisers said on Thursday, in the latest sign of thawing tensions.

The two countries will also march together at the opening and closing ceremonies for the showpiece event being held in Indonesia from August 18-September 2, they added.

South Korea's national Olympic committee previously told AFP that the country's governing bodies for basketball, judo, canoe, gymnastics, table tennis, rowing and soft tennis had expressed an interest in running combined teams. Seoul and Pyongyang agreed this month to form unified teams for some sports though the specifics were only confirmed on Thursday after a meeting in Jakarta between the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), Games organisers and representatives from the two Koreas.

‘No more changes’

“We won't add any more (sports),” Games deputy chairman Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin told reporters after the meeting on Thursday. “We have to be strict with scheduling so there will be no more changes.”

Further details about logistics would come later, he added. “The meeting was very friendly and enthusiastic, and was based on a spirit of togetherness of the two countries,” Sjamsoeddin said.

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The two Koreas formed their first-ever unified Olympic team — a joint women's ice hockey squad — for February's Winter Games in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang. It provoked a backlash in the South, on the grounds that Seoul was depriving its own athletes of the chance to compete on the Olympic stage.

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Ultimately the sight of North and South Korean skaters wearing the same jersey and passing the puck to each other drew emotive responses from spectators and quickly became an Olympic favourite, despite the team being thrashed in all five of its matches.

Encouraging signs

Ties between the neighbours have been warming since the Winter Olympics, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreeing at an historic summit in April to jointly participate in international sports events. This month, Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump held a summit in Singapore.

The three-team plan comes after the OCA had earlier dismissed the idea of granting extra places for unified Korean teams at an event which will see about 10,000 athletes compete in 40 sports — the second-biggest multi-sport event behind the Olympics.

The Games will be held in Indonesia's capital and Palembang on Sumatra island.