North Korea to send delegation to Asian Games in China

North Korea is sending a delegation to the Asian Games that will open in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on Saturday.

The Games' organizing committee says North Korea will send a delegation of 191 athletes and officials for 18 sports competitions. Forty-five countries and territories are taking part in the Hangzhou Games.

The North Korean men's soccer squad played Taiwan on Tuesday ahead of the opening ceremony. Players wearing T-shirts bearing the North Korean flag were seen heading for the match venue in a relaxed atmosphere.

It is the first time since the coronavirus pandemic that Pyongyang is to dispatch a delegation to a major sporting event abroad.

South Korean media say the North may take this opportunity to send a senior official to China. Along with Russia, China is Pyongyang's main backer.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un recently visited Russia and met President Vladimir Putin for the first time in four years, apparently to strengthen bilateral ties.

Diplomatic sources say North Korea's sports minister Kim Il Guk is likely to attend the Games' opening ceremony. Attention is focused on whether a more high-ranking official will be sent to China.