Asian Games: North Korea retracts decision to send cheerleaders

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on August 28, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (centre) inspecting the actual parachuting and landing drill of paratrooper units of the Korean People's Arm
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on August 28, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (centre) inspecting the actual parachuting and landing drill of paratrooper units of the Korean People's Army at an undisclosed location in North Korea. North Korea announced the same day that it would not be sending any cheerleaders to accompany its athletes at next month's Asian Games in South Korea. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea said Thursday it would not send any cheerleaders to accompany its athletes at next month's Asian Games in South Korea.

The decision was announced by Son Kwang-Ho, vice-president of North Korea's National Olympic Committee, according to the South's Yonhap news agency.

"We have decided not to send a cheerleading squad," Son said in a statement broadcast by Pyongyang's state TV monitored by Yonhap.

He accused Seoul of treating North Korean cheerleaders as a political propaganda tool.

"The South called the cheerleading squad political subversives aimed at stirring trouble, and raised issues with its size and even touched on cost that caused working level talks to break down," Yonhap quoted Son as saying in the broadcast.

Initially North Korea had planned to send 350 cheerleaders to the Sept 19 to Oct 4 Games, Asia's biggest sporting event, in the South's western port of Incheon.

But Pyongyang officials walked out of a meeting last month, reportedly after Seoul proposed breaking with its custom of financially supporting sports teams visiting from the North.

North Korean officials, who visited Incheon last week for the Asian Games draw, pledged to dispatch a 273-member delegation made up of athletes and sports officials to the event.

There has so far been no retraction on this.

South Korea said Tuesday that a North Korean plane carrying athletes and officials would be allowed to fly over the sensitive Yellow Sea border, a flashpoint area and scene of bloody clashes in the past.

Tensions have been high between the two countries after the North carried out an extended series of rocket and missile launches.