SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea's Kim Jong Un expressed "great expectations" for their athletes at the upcoming Asian Games in the South, state media said on Sunday, despite Pyongyang's earlier threat to boycott the event.
The North had announced plans to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Games to be held in Incheon from September 19 to October 4.
But inter-Korea talks on Thursday to coordinate their visit broke down due to disagreement over issues including who was going to shoulder the cost of the trip, prompting Pyongyang to threaten a boycott.
Kim however watched the national football team beat another side 12-0 in a practice match and said their participation in the Asiad would help boost cross-border ties, the state-run KCNA news agency reported.
"The participation of the (North)'s players in the 17th Asian Games offers an important occasion in improving the relations between the North and the South and removing distrust between them," the KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
"Great are expectations and interest of our people in the Games... it is our principled stand that the inviolable sports should not be a political bargaining chip of the undesirable forces," he was quoted as saying.
The KCNA dispatch however did not address the dispute over the delegation's trip to the South or whether it planned to resume talks with Seoul.
Pyongyang on Friday threatened to pull out of the Games, accusing Seoul of showing a "defiant attitude" over accepting the North's delegation.
The North said in May it would send about 150 athletes and later that they would be accompanied by a cheering squad.
During the talks last week, Pyongyang officials however suggested sending 350 players and 350 cheerleaders - record highs for a North Korean delegation sent to sporting events in the South.
Seoul reportedly proposed to break from its past tradition of financially supporting visiting sporting delegations from the North, to move into line with international sporting standards.
The North bristled at the change and warned Friday that it would "fundamentally re-examine" its participation in the Games.
South Korea said in response the issue of who paid was still open to negotiation.
Pyongyang boycotted the 1988 Olympics in Seoul but sent athletes and cheerleaders to the 2002 Asian Games in the South.
Last week's talks - the first official meeting between two Koreas for months - came amid simmering tensions sparked by a recent series of rocket and ballistic missile launches by the North.
The UN Security Council on Thursday officially condemned Pyongyang for violation of UN resolutions which ban the nuclear-armed state from conducting tests using ballistic missile technology.
Pyongyang hit back at the criticism, calling it "absolutely intolerable".