Football: North Korean players to head south to Incheon for Asian Games

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea said on Monday that its footballers would participate in the Asian Games to be hosted in South Korea's western port city of Incheon later this year.

The North's footballers will compete in both men's and women's events during the Asian Games, which will run from Sept 19 to Oct 4, the country's official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief article.

South Korea has invited North Korea to participate in the so-called Asiad through the Olympic Council of Asia, a body that controls all sports in Asia.

The North boycotted the 1988 Olympics hosted by Seoul but sent athletes and cheerleaders for the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea's southern port city of Busan.

Cross-border ties are currently in a state of watchful limbo, with both sides voicing willingness to improve relations while accusing the other of lacking sincerity.

Earlier this month, South Korean President Park Geun Hye had called for the resumption of reunions for families separated by the Korean War. But the North rejected the proposal, citing the South-US exercises as a major barrier.

In a surprise offer last week, the North called for an end to "all acts of provoking and slandering" from Jan 30, and for steps to ease tensions around the disputed Yellow Sea border, the scene of naval clashes in the past.

The North also renewed demands that South Korea scrap its planned joint military drills with the United States, an exercise which Pyongyang routinely condemns as a provocative rehearsal for an invasion.

But South Korea has reacted negatively to the North's proposal, saying it would not cancel its military drills with the US.

Last year's exercises were held following North Korea's third and largest nuclear test, which prompted months of escalated military tensions that saw Pyongyang issue apocalyptic threats of nuclear war against Seoul and Washington.

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