N.Korea cancels sending advance team for orchestra

N.Korea cancels sending advance team for orchestra

N.Korea cancels sending advance team for orchestra

North Korea has cancelled the planned visit of a delegation to South Korea to prepare for next month's Winter Olympics, Reuters reported on Friday, citing authorities in Seoul.

The North had told the South Friday morning that it would send seven inspectors, including Hyon Song-wol, leader of the Samjiyon Orchestra, for the checkup.

Though the original pre-Olympic talks focused mainly on inter-Korean relations and preparations for the games, the ministry said it will try to push North Korea to the "negotiating table for denuclearization based on the South-North dialogue and global cooperation".

The IOC earlier said its meeting "will have to take a series of essential decisions", including the size of the North Korean athletic delegation, the format of North Korea's participation and issues related to the official protocol, such as flags, anthems and uniforms.

During an annual New Year's Day speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made overtures towards the South, which led to the staging of the first high-level inter-Korean meeting since December 2015.

Hyon's delegation was for the goal of inspecting facilities for the performance of the 140-member Samjiyon Orchestra, which the two Koreas have agreed will perform during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in both Seoul and Gangnueng.

Both Koreas had agreed last Monday in working-level talks that the North will be sending 140 members of the Samjiyon Orchestra to South Korea next month to perform once in each Seoul and Gangneung.

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The band was created by an order of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in July 2012 and features Western-style music and outfits.

"At around 10:00 p.m., the North informed the South that it will suspend the advance team's scheduled trip", the ministry said.

Hyon is also an alternate member of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee. Outside critics dismissed Kim's overture as a tactic to use improved ties with Seoul to weaken US -led worldwide sanctions over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests. "Watch this space", International Olympic Committee presidential spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press in an interview, a day before a crucial meeting of Korean delegations at Olympics headquarters in Lausanne.

The two Koreas had previously agreed that the South will accept the advance team from the North over the weekend.

Diplomats have reportedly been invited to attend festivities in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North's regular army on February 8, a day before the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony.

The last senior visit by North Korean officials was in 2014, aside from talks on the southern side of the DMZ.

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