Koreas extend conciliatory steps to Asian Games

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              FILE - In this April 27, 2018, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, poses with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a photo inside the Peace House at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone, South Korea. The war-separated rivals will take their reconciliation steps to the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, where they will jointly march in the opening ceremony and field combined teams in basketball, rowing and canoeing. (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP. Pool, File)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — With the Koreas, there’s no separating their sports from their politics.

The war-separated rivals will take their reconciliation steps to the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, where they will jointly march in the opening ceremony and field combined teams in basketball, rowing and canoeing.

“Sports have played the role of peacemaker between the Koreas,” said Kim Seong-jo, vice chairman of South Korea’s Olympic committee and the country’s chef de mission at the Asian Games. “If the combined teams put out good performances and win medals, that would be putting the cherry on the top.”

North and South Korea have used sports diplomacy this year in a bid to decrease animosity and initiate a new round of global diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang.

South Korea leaders consider goodwill gestures as crucial to keep the positive atmosphere alive for what could become a long and difficult attempt to persuade the North to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

There’s not much Seoul can do beyond such gestures, though, as joint economic projects are out of the question when lifting sanctions against North Korea is far beyond the South’s control. The more substantial discussions on the North’s denuclearization — including what, when and how it would occur— are always going to be between Washington and Pyongyang.

Here’s a look at what the Koreas are planning for the Asian Games and their ebbs and flows in sports diplomacy: