Japan foreign ministry staff to accompany soccer team to N.Korea

The Japanese government says foreign ministry staff will accompany the country's national soccer team to North Korea for a World Cup qualifier next week.

The two countries' teams are matched in the second round of the 2026 World Cup Asian qualifiers. They are set to play in Tokyo on Thursday, and will have another match in Pyongyang on the 26th.

The Japanese government is calling on people to refrain from traveling to North Korea as part of its sanctions against the country over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs. But the government has exceptionally allowed the national team, its staff and media reporters to visit there for the game.

The government has announced it will send 14 people to North Korea from Saturday through next Wednesday to assist the team. They include foreign ministry staff in charge of crisis management.

There is no Japanese embassy in North Korea as the two countries have no diplomatic ties. The dispatched personnel will help the Japanese team with border procedures and will respond in case of any contingency such as a disaster or an accident.