N. Korea threatens to rethink participation in Incheon Asiad

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Friday it may reconsider a decision to join the upcoming Incheon Asian Games, claiming South Korea is to blame for the failure of related talks earlier this week.

South and North Korea met each other at the truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday to discuss the logistics of North Korean athletes and cheerleaders to participate in the Games slated for Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.

The North said it would send a team of 350 athletes, along with the same number of cheerleaders, according to South Korean officials. Later, however, the North's delegation abruptly walked away from the meeting, they added.

Pyongyang accused the South's delegation of turning to an "insincere" attitude in the afternoon session, apparently at the instruction of the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae.

"It took issue with the scope of the cheerleading squad and the size of the national flag of the DPRK (to be used during the games)," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) said in an English-language report.

DPRK is the acronym for the communist nation's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The South cited "sentiment" among its people and safety concerns and even raised the issue of the cost of Pyongyang's delegation to stay in the South Korean port city of Incheon, the KCNA said.

The South wants the North to pay for its delegation this time, in accordance with international practice.

Should the South maintain such a stance, the North would fundamentally rethink plans to take part in the games, said the KCNA.

The South Korean government dismissed the North's claim as unreasonable.

"We express regret over North Korea's attitude and call for sincere attitude," an official at the unification ministry told reporters.

During the Thursday meeting, he said, the South has not taken issue with the size of athletes or cheerleaders itself.

"We just requested details of the delegation including how many coaches will be included," he said. "North Korea might have misunderstood our intention."

It is true that Seoul asked the North's delegation to refrain from using its big national flag in and out of stadiums, added the official.

In the next meeting, the official said the South will monitor the situation for the time being and decide whether to propose a date and the venue.

If the North sends 350 cheerleaders, it would be the largest-ever group of its kind. It sent 288 female cheerleaders, nicknamed an "army of beauties," to the 2002 Busan Asian Games, and dispatched 303 cheerleaders to the 2003 Daegu Universiade.

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