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North Korea: Olympic officials discuss participation plans

Athletes from North and South Korea are preparing to march together at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games under a unified flag – a potential first for the two nations – after the historic talks in the last two weeks .

agreed to form a joint women's ice hockey team from North Korea and South Korea for the Games in Pyeongchang, which will begin early next month, the Unification Ministry of South Korea said this week.

Officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the 2018 Pyeongchang Organizing Committee must approve the proposals of the two countries before they can continue.

Those that affect the competition, such as the joint hockey team, could be more complicated than the ceremonial proposals.

Opening the Saturday meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, IOC President Thomas Bach said it was a "great moment" for the Olympic movement and an opportunity to build bridges.

Bach: Games beyond all political tensions

The unexpected participation of North Korea, negotiated in talks at the heavily fortified border between the two nations since the beginning of the year, has been hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that could announce peace on the Korean peninsula.

However, others fear that South Korea has fallen into an offensive by North Korea and warned the international community not to be complacent.

Bach said that the IOC had been working to address the "special situation" of having the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea Peninsula for several years.

"We have always done this with our belief that the Olympic Games are beyond all political tensions," he said. "In Olympic sport, we are all the same, regardless of where we come from or who we are: north and south, east and west, women and men, rivals and friends."

Bach said he was confident that the talks could achieve a positive outcome.

"Our meeting today shows that Olympic sport always builds bridges, never builds walls," he said. "The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics give everyone a real chance for a new beginning, to open the doors to a better future, we still have a long way to go in our way, but today we are taking a more significant step together."

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Joint proposed training

The IOC has previously approved the two countries that participate jointly in the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, something that happened during the Sydney Summer Games in 2000.

  North Korea goes to the Olympic Games: 5 things you should know

However, arrangements between the two Koreas that affect the competition, such as the joint hockey team, may be more difficult to resolve.

The Unification Ministry of South Korea announced a series of joint activities among the countries for the Games, following Wednesday's talks in the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

Skiers from North and South Korea will train together at a resort in North Korea before the Olympic Games begin, and artists from both countries will also hold a joint cultural event at Mount Kumgang.

In addition to the athletes, a Trope art, a 30-member North Korean Taekwondo demonstration team and a press corps will travel south, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters in Seoul .

A delegation of 150 North Korean athletes and supporters will attend the Paralympic Games, Seoul Unification Ministry said.

An advance inspection team for the art company will travel from North Korea on Sunday, the ministry said Saturday. A day earlier, the ministry said North Korea had canceled the early trip, scheduled for Saturday, without an explanation.

Moscow visit

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said he did not rule out the possibility of a delegation from North Korea visiting Moscow before the Games next month .

"I do not exclude contacts with a Pyongyang delegation on inter-MFA channels [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] in Moscow before the start of the Olympic Games," Morgulov said in an interview with the state news agency TASS published on Saturday.

Morgulov said that the main focus of any meeting would be on bilateral issues. He added that recent talks between the two Koreas indicated that tensions would be reduced during the Winter Olympics.

"In our opinion, the direct dialogue that began between Seoul and Pyongyang, as well as the agreements that were reached during it, give reason to believe that during the Olympic Games, the situation on the peninsula will be relatively stable," Morgulov said. .

CNN journalists Aleks Klosok, Emma Burrows and Sophie Jeong contributed to this report.

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