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IOC chief meets N. Korean leader: report

All Headlines 07:01 March 31, 2018

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang Friday, the AP reported.

In an interview in the North Korean capital, Bach said he and Kim talked for more than an hour while watching a football game together, the report said. Kim told Bach he supports North Korean athletes' participation in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

Kim sent athletes to compete in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last month, opening a pathway to talks between South and North Korea as well as between the North and the United States.

Critics viewed the move as a propaganda tool designed to divert attention from the growing threat of his nuclear weapons program.

Still, South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to meet with Kim on April 27. U.S. President Donald Trump is also due to sit down with the reclusive leader before the end of May.

North Korea's state media reported earlier that Bach met with North Korea's sports minister, Kim Il-guk, the same day.

He was invited to visit by the North's national Olympic committee during an IOC meeting in January that discussed the country's participation in the PyeongChang Games.

With the IOC's approval, the two Koreas marched together under the Korean Unification Flag at the opening ceremony and also assembled a historic unified women's hockey team, with 23 South Korean and 12 North Korean players.

Bach has repeatedly praised the two Koreas for sending a powerful message of peace, saying they represented the Olympic values of respect and friendship.

The IOC said in a statement Bach's visit is "part of the close cooperation and consultations the IOC enjoys with all of the 206 national Olympic committees."

"The discussions will focus on the further development of sport in the DPRK after the successful participation of athletes at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018," the committee said, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The two sides will also talk about preparing North Korean athletes to qualify for and compete in the Tokyo and Beijing games, as well as the respective Youth Olympic Games, it added.

Bach arrived in Pyongyang Thursday and is scheduled to depart Saturday.

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