Whoever said sports is a uniting factor indeed is correct. In a rare move by a Japan wary of Pyongyang’s threats, the government will issue visas to the national table tennis, or ping pong, team of North Korea. The entry permits will be used by the team to join in the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, to be held in Tokyo beginning April 28 until May 5.
Japan has placed a ban on North Koreans from entering their shores due to a nuclear test conducted by the communist state in October 2006. However, this would not be the first time the government has granted entry permits to athletes from North Korea. The Men’s National Football Team were allowed to compete in the third qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup versus the Japanese team in 2011. The following year, the Women’s U-20 team was permitted in the country to join the U-20 World Cup event held in August that year.
While the Olympic Charter played a role in Japan’s decision with its rejection of any form of discrimination regarding a country or person on account of politics and other factors, many observers see it as Japan’s move to continue the recent abduction talks. Japan’s Foreign Ministry met with North Korea’s in Beijing last March to discuss numerous issues, including the kidnapping of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents decades ago.
[via Asahi Shimbun]