Seoul – A Japanese official indicated to a visiting group of South Korean lawmakers that it would be possible to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to next summer's Tokyo Olympics, a South Korean newspaper reported Wednesday, quoting one of the legislators.
Kim Jin-pyo, who headed the group on a three-day visit to Tokyo through Saturday, said he was told by a high-level Japanese official involved in diplomacy that if the North Korean leader wants to attend the Olympics next July, an official invitation could be extended, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.
A senior Japanese government official denied the report Wednesday, saying they are not at a stage to make such a statement when North Korea's participation in the games is not decided. A senior Foreign Ministry official said Kim Jin-pyo must have offered his personal view.
While in Japan, Kim Jin-pyo and other members of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union held talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other politicians as well as Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori.
Kim told the newspaper that, during his visit, he proposed bilateral cooperation in containing the spread of the coronavirus, conducting pre-Olympic sports and cultural exchanges, and realizing North Korean participation in the games.
He received positive responses from the Japanese side, according to the daily, which interviewed him after the group's return to South Korea.
The lawmaker also said there is already an agreement between taekwondo groups in Japan and North Korea to stage a joint performance during the Olympics, just as taekwondo performers from North and South Korea jointly demonstrated the martial art during the Pyongchang Winter Olympics in 2018.
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