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Asian Games: S Korea clears sensitive flight path for North

South Korea Tuesday (Aug 26) gave the green light for North Korea's athletes and officials to fly over the sensitive Yellow Sea border as contacts resumed about their participation in the Asian Games.

SEOUL: South Korea Tuesday (Aug 26) gave the green light for North Korea's athletes and officials to fly over the sensitive Yellow Sea border as contacts resumed about their participation in the Asian Games.

A letter from organisers of the quadrennial Games, Asia's biggest sporting event, in Incheon was passed to the North via a truce village in their heavily fortified border, Seoul officials said.

While few details of the letter were divulged, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it would approve a rare flight across the Yellow Sea, a flashpoint area and scene of bloody clashes in the past. The ministry said a total of 273 athletes and officials would be allowed on the flight to Incheon, west of Seoul, which lies on South Korea's Yellow Sea coast.

The ministry declined to confirm a Yonhap news agency report saying Seoul is willing to show flexibility on who will pick up the bill for the visiting North Korean team. "Both sides will continue discussion by exchanging letters through Panmunjom," a ministry official told AFP.

Pyongyang officials walked out of a meeting last month, reportedly after Seoul proposed breaking with its custom of financially supporting sports teams visiting from the North. Written contacts have resumed following a request from a group of North Korean officials, who visited for last week's Asian Games draw and pledged to slash the number of officials in their final delegation.

No details were given Tuesday about whether North Korea's team would be accompanied by 350 cheerleaders, as originally proposed by Pyongyang, at the Sep 19-Oct 4 Games.

Tensions have been high between the two countries, which are technically still at war, after the North carried out an extended series of rocket and missile launches. North Korea broke off most official dialogue channels years ago, meaning the two sides often communicate using letters and documents passed via the truce village of Panmunjom.