May 23, 2019 / 6:00 AM / a month ago

Olympics: Plans stall for unified Korean team at women's hockey event

(Reuters) - South Korea will send its own team to the women’s Hockey Series Finals next month after talks with North Korea over fielding a unified team at the Olympic qualifying event stalled, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) deadline for submitting squads for the June 8-16 tournament in Ireland was Thursday.

The two countries agreed to field joint teams in various sports in February but the Yonhap report said South Korea had decided to go it alone in women’s hockey after its northern neighbour did not respond to calls for joint training sessions.

Sports diplomacy has been a prominent feature of the thaw in relations between the two countries since early 2018, when they fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and marched under a unified flag.

They have also expressed interest in jointly hosting the 2023 women’s World Cup, but tensions have risen again after nuclear-armed North Korea test fired rockets and at least one short-range missile earlier this month.

The rocket drill brought talks about sports and other inter-Korean exchanges to a halt, resulting in South Korea deciding to select a squad for Ireland entirely from its own pool of players, Yonhap reported.

The Hockey Series Finals event in Ireland is one of three from which six teams, two from each tournament, will go through to the FIH Olympic qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.

South Korea, Olympic silver medallists in 1988 and 1996, are ranked 11th in the world while North Korea do not appear in the FIH rankings.

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings

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