Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The International Olympic Committee says it welcomes moves by North Korea to take part in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

IOC president Thomas Bach says in a statement that North Korea’s decision to send a delegation to the games is “a great step forward in the Olympic spirit.”

The IOC says it’s now waiting for official details of how North Korean participation could work before it decides which athletes could compete.

It’s also unclear which flags and anthems would be used, though South Korea has suggested athletes from the two Koreas could march together during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Pyeongchang Olympics, which run from Feb. 9 through 25.

South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung earlier cited North Korean officials as saying their delegation would include officials, athletes, cheerleaders and journalists.

The meeting, the first of its kind in about two years, was arranged after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea following a year of elevated tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs. Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions on the North.

North Korea is weak in winter sports and a pair of figure skaters, Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, earlier became the only North Korean athletes to qualify for next month’s Pyeongchang Games before the North missed a confirmation deadline. The International Olympic Committee said Monday it has “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the games.

The AP’s HYUNG-JIN KIM contributed to this report

(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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