September 15, 2017 / 7:50 PM / 2 years ago

Olympics: Korea crisis no problem for Pyeongchang: North Korean IOC member

FILE PHOTO: Chang Ung, North Korea's International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, arrives at the World Taekwondo Headquarters 'Kukkiwon' in Seoul, South Korea, June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

LIMA (Reuters) - The Pyeongchang winter Olympics in February will not be affected by the escalating crisis on the peninsula and North Korea will hopefully be able to send athletes, the country’s International Olympic Committee member Chang Ung said on Friday.

Chang, a vice president of the North Korean Olympic Committee (NOC), said that so far no athletes from North Korea had qualified and any participation was subject to an NOC decision.

North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under leader Kim Jong Un as it accelerates a weapons program designed to give it the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile.

Less than five months before the start of the Games in Pyeongchang, world powers are grappling for a response to the latest series of nuclear tests by the North and its repeated test-firing of ballistic missiles, of which the latest flew over Japan and far out into the Pacific on Friday.

“I am quite sure that politics is one thing and Olympics is another thing,” Chang Ung told the IOC’s Olympic channel. “So I don’t see any big problem for the Pyeongchang Olympics.”

“However still the NOC of the DPRK (North Korea) cannot confirm as athletes have not qualified yet, qualification still goes on,” he said.

He said that figure skating, short track speed skating and possibly Nordic skiing could potentially feature North Korean athletes.

“The figure skating pair is on the way to Germany for the qualification, short track (are) also going to participate in qualification in Netherlands... Nordic could be as they will go to qualifications,” he said.

“It is up to the NOC to decide. The DPRK NOC did not send any athletes to Sochi (2014 winter Olympics) because of qualification but hopefully if they qualify they will go (to Pyeongchang).”

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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