National / Politics

North Korean minister to enter Japan for Olympics meeting: government


North Korean sports minister Kim Il Guk arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday to attend a major international sports meeting later this week, after the Japanese government permitted his entry as a special case.

It is rare for a senior North Korean official to visit Japan, as Tokyo has banned the entry of its neighbor’s nationals as part of unilateral sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties.

The North Korean minister of physical culture and sports is scheduled to join the two-day general assembly meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees set to start Wednesday in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference. Tokyo is the host of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The government has decided to accept Kim as an “exceptional case” in light of the spirit of international sports, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality, he said.

There is no plan for any Japanese ministers to hold bilateral talks with the North Korean official, the top government spokesman added.

The North Korean sports minister, who is also chairman of the country’s Olympic Committee, left Pyongyang on Saturday.

The general assembly will be attended by about 1,300 officials, including Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.