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Olympics: Japan withholding necessary information from North Korea

TOKYO — Japan has been withholding from North Korea information needed to allocate tickets and process athletes’ applications for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an informed source said Saturday.


All other national Olympic committees have received the electronic information needed in the run-up to next year’s Olympics. The North Korean Olympic Committee has called it a violation of the spirit of the Olympic Charter and is considering an official protest to the International Olympic Committee.


Since Japan’s current sanctions prevent North Korean citizens from entering Japan, the Tokyo Olympic organizers’ move could be seen as a reflection of the tough stance taken by the prime minister’s office toward North Korea.


Relations between Japan and North Korea are strained due to the latter’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and past abductions of Japanese citizens. It is possible this latest issue will be on the agenda in future discussions between the two nations’ governments. But a government source did not express optimism for a quick resolution.


“Considering the current state of relations between Japan and North Korea, there won’t be any discussion to resolve this quickly,” the source said.


Tokyo organizers and the different national Olympic committees are using a private internet network or “extranet” to share information, but without its ID and password, North Korean officials are unable to access the system.


According to the informed source, the Tokyo organizing committee has not received permission from the prime minister’s office to issue an ID and password to the North Korean Olympic Committee. A negotiator for the North Korean body said it has been requesting the issuance since around last September.


“It seems the organizers are caught in a tight spot between us and the prime minister’s office,” the negotiator said.


A Tokyo Olympics official said, “We must treat the 206 different national Olympic committees equally. If this is taken too far, it could be construed as government interference in sports.”


North Korean Olympic athletes and officials can gain entry to Japan through documentation provided by the IOC. However, government officials and other visitors with tickets to see Olympic events will require Japanese government approval to enter the country.


The North Koreans have already informed the IOC of this problem at a working-group level, and their negotiator said a formal complaint will be lodged with IOC President Thomas Bach if the current impasse persists.


The Tokyo organizing committee said it does not comment on its information sharing with individual national committees, while the IOC called it a technical problem to be dealt with by the local organizing committee.


In addition to the Olympic contingents from North and South Korea, the IOC has approved four joint Korean teams in women’s basketball and hockey, rowing and a mixed judo that will be able to compete next summer in Tokyo provided they qualify. The two Koreas are also slated to march together in the opening ceremony at Japan’s New National Stadium.

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