Japan may let North Korean minister attend Olympic meeting

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Japan may let North Korean minister attend Olympic meeting

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Japan may let North Korean minister attend Olympic meeting

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

November 6, 2018 at 15:05 JST

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Photo/IllutrationNorth Korean sports minister Kim Il Guk, center, attends a meeting hosted by the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland on Jan. 19. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan is considering making a rare exception to its entry ban on North Koreans by allowing the country’s sports minister to attend an international Olympic meeting in Tokyo, a senior government official said.

Pyongyang has informed Tokyo that it wants Kim Il Guk, who is also president of North Korea’s National Olympic Committee, to attend the annual general assembly meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) to be held in the Japanese capital on Nov. 28-29.

The Japanese government official said that allowing a North Korean Cabinet-level official to enter Japan would be unusual, but it would be “no problem if the objective of the entry is to attend an international meeting about sports.”

About 1,000 people from around 200 countries and regions are expected to join the ANOC meeting.

Japan’s entry ban on North Koreans is part of the sanctions imposed against the country for its missile and nuclear tests.

However, sports have proved an exception to the ban.

In February 2017, the Japanese government decided to allow North Korean athletes and officials to enter the country for the Asian Winter Games held in Sapporo.

At that time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the decision was made under “exceptional, extraordinary circumstances” for the sake of sports.

“A shared belief that bans discrimination based on nationality has permeated the world of international sports,” Suga said.

During a meeting in Pyongyang in March, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach asked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for cooperation in having North Korean athletes participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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