February 6, 2017 / 3:56 AM / 9 months ago

Japan to let North Korea athletes attend Asian Winter Games: reports

TOKYO - (Reuters) - Japan will allow North Korean athletes and officials to take part in the Sapporo Asian Winter Games this month despite sanctions against the reclusive state that bar North Koreans from entering the country, Kyodo news agency said.

Japan has long has comprehensive sanctions in place against North Korea, which last year conducted more than 20 missile and two nuclear tests, and there is concern that Pyongyang could be readying tests of a new ballistic missile.

However, government sources were quoted by Kyodo as saying that about 20 people, including seven athletes, would be allowed to enter Japan to take part in the Winter Games in Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

Japan last year allowed the North Korean women’s soccer team to enter the country for the final Asian qualifying round for the Rio Summer Olympics.

A Winter Games organizer could not confirm the report but said that several North Korean athletes were registered to take part in figure skating and short track competitions.

The Games run from Feb. 19 to Feb 26.

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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