DPRK, South Korea to march together at PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games: IOC


South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyon speaks to reporters at the ministry on January 20, 2018, regarding the abrupt cancellation of a scheduled visit by an advance inspection team from North Korea in preparing for cultural performances during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

South Korea's prime minister apologised Friday for suggesting the country's women's ice hockey team had no chance of a medal at the Winter Olympics in an unsuccessful attempt to dampen criticism over a unified team with the North.

The announcement came from IOC President Thomas Bach after a four-party meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday that was attended by delegations from the National Olympic Committees (NOC) of the DPRK and South Korea, the organization committee of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, and members of the IOC.

In the most symbolic agreement approved Saturday, 12 North Korean women's hockey players will join their neighbours in a united roster playing in special uniforms with a Korean song as their anthem.

It was unclear whether the cancellation cast any doubt over the preparations for the North's participation in next months Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang, an apparent diplomatic breakthrough after months of high tension over the North's nuclear and missile programme.

At the opening ceremony, the joint delegation "will be led into the Olympic stadium by the Korean unification flag" carried together by athlete from each country, the IOC said.

North Korea will also send 24 officials and 21 media representatives.

In opening remarks earlier Saturday, Bach said the International Olympic Committee had been working for several years to address the "special situation" of having the 2018 Winter Olympics on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang nominated her to head a seven-member advance team to inspect venues for proposed art performances in Seoul and the eastern city of Gangneung in connection with the Olympics, the South's Unification Ministry said.

"As we are fully prepared to receive the North's advance team for its art troupe, the South and the North can renegotiate the schedule and implement (any needed visits)", Cho added.

But Pyongyang said it had suspended the plan, giving no reason.

"Pyongyang is apparently angry as unconfirmed rumours about Hyon's alleged ties with Kim are being spread again", Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies told AFP.

The PyeongChang Games have "opened the door for peaceful dialogue on the Korean peninsula", and shown that "Olympic sport always builds bridges" and "never erects walls", Bach said.

They could stage a military parade in the capital to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North's regular army on February 8, a day before the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony, it added.