South Korea taekwondo team's Pyongyang trip in doubt

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (centre) posing with North Korean Taekwondo Demonstraition team during the opening ceremony of the World Taekwondo Championships in the southern county of Muju on  June 24, 2017.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (centre) posing with North Korean Taekwondo Demonstraition team during the opening ceremony of the World Taekwondo Championships in the southern county of Muju on June 24, 2017.PHOTO: AFP/THE BLUE HOUSE

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea has backtracked on a promise to invite a South Korean taekwondo demonstration team to Pyongyang next month, a spokeswoman said on Friday (Aug 25), putting the trip in doubt amid political tensions.

Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, is as divided as the Korean peninsula, with the South Korean-based World Taekwondo (WT) organisation - which is recognised by the International Olympic Committee - holding its world championships in June in the South.

A team from the North Korea-led International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) performed a demonstration, and both agreed that a WT team would reciprocate at the ITF's world championships in Pyongyang in September.

But the ITF told WT, in a letter sent last week, that it would be "inappropriate" to go ahead, a WT spokeswoman told AFP.

"We've sent a mail to ITF headquarters for clarification and we are now waiting for a reply," he said.

The ITF gave no reasons for the about-face, but it comes amid high tensions over the nuclear-armed North's weapons programmes, which saw it subjected to a seventh round of United Nations Security sanctions earlier this month after it carried out two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.