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(LEAD) Koreas trade barbs over Asiad, bilateral ties

All Headlines 13:53 August 29, 2014

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details, NK's statement; CHANGES headline; ADDS byline)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea traded accusations Friday, a day after the end of a South Korea-U.S. defense drill, throwing cold water on early expectations that it will help warm inter-Korean ties.

The South's government expressed strong regret over the North's abrupt reversal of a decision to send hundreds of cheerleaders to the upcoming Incheon Asian Games.

"It's very regrettable that North Korea unilaterally announced plans not to send cheerleaders, making a distorted claim that we do not want their participation," the unification ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said at a press briefing.

Seoul welcomes not only North Korean athletes but also cheerleaders, he added.

Pyongyang plans to dispatch a 273-member delegation of athletes, coaches, referees and other officials to the games set to open on Sept. 19 in the South's port city of Incheon, just west of Seoul. The quadrennial event will last through Oct. 4.

The communist neighbor initially said it would send 350 cheerleaders, apparently young beauties.

On Thursday night, however, the country's senior sports official, Son Kwang-ho, told a local television network that Pyongyang is ditching the plan, citing Seoul's negative response to it during their July working-level talks.

The Seoul ministry reaffirmed that it would provide necessary support for the North's visitors basically in accordance with international practice.

"Also, we have a position to cooperate with North Korea (on the matter) so as to make positive contributions to South-North relations," Lim said.

Earlier Friday, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland issued a statement denouncing regular South Korea-U.S. military drills.

Should the South want improved inter-Korean ties, it should cancel all of those annual military exercises, said the committee.

"It's a pipe dream to expect that the end of this year's Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise will automatically ease tensions on the peninsula and lead to a phase of inter-Korean dialogue," the committee stressed.

It urged the South's Park Geun-hye administration to choose between dialogue and confrontation if it is sincerely interested in talks and improving inter-Korean relations.



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