TOKYO — North Korea would consider sharing some events in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea -- but only if the situation between the two countries improves, a Pyongyang sports official said Wednesday.
Jang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), also said Asia's third Winter Games would help the development of winter sports in the region which are "still far behind" Europe and North America.
The South Korean resort of Pyeongchang, bidding for the Winter Olympics for the third straight time, fought off Munich in Germany and the French town of Annecy to win the 2018 event last week.
Jang arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday for a general meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia.
"It is premature to talk about it due to the serious political and military situation between two parts of Korea," he told AFP when asked about press reports that he had "hope" that North Korea can share some 2018 Olympic events.
"The situation between two parts of Korea should not be deteriorated any further. That's my hope," he said.
"The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang would be held very near the military demarcation line. If something happens, the whole Games could be destroyed.
"The most important thing is the political and military situation which we could not control. Sport cannot control."
Jang, 73, welcomed the Winter Olympics coming to Asia for the third time after Japan hosted them in 1972 and 1998.
"Asia is still far behind Europe and America in winter sports," he said. "If we organise the Winter Olympics in Asia, it will make a certain contribution to development of winter sports in Asia."
Ruling and opposition parties in Seoul have agreed to try to have North and South Korea field a unified team and train players jointly.
But Sohn Hak-Kyu, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, went further Monday and said he would explore ways for them to co-host the event.
He said the Games should become "a turning point in the history of the divided Korean peninsula, as well as in global peace".
Athletes from the two nations marched together at the Summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
But relations have worsened sharply in recent years and there was no joint march in Beijing in 2008 or at the Asian Games in China last year.
Jang, who was implemental in arranging the joint march in 2000, said it was time to seek more substantial inter-Korean cooperation in the Olympics.
"If everything is okay in the Korean peninsula," the North and South Korean national Olympic committees should start discussing ways to "upgrade this joint march which is now an old story," he said.
A Seoul presidential spokeswoman said sharing Olympic events with North Korea could not be considered. "That was not the bid we made...(the hosting right) was awarded to Pyeongchang," she said.
An opinion poll released Monday showed 57.5 percent of South Koreans support a unified team while 30.5 percent are opposed. But 73.3 percent rejected the idea of co-hosting the event.
The Korea Times said any co-hosting plan was premature and would need IOC approval. It recalled attacks by the North apparently aimed at disrupting two previous international sports events.
In November 1987, the North's agents blew up a Korean Air plane in mid-air in an apparent attempt to dissuade people from attending the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
And a naval battle between the two sides broke out during the South's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup in 2002.
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