Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, talks to The Associated Press about his visit to North Korea in the Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, March 30, 2018. Bach arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and discuss development of sports in North Korea with the preparation of its athletes to qualify and participate in upcoming Olympics.(AP Photo)

IOC president meets North Korean leader Kim

The two had a 30-minute formal meeting followed by 45 minutes of casual discussions while watching a football match

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach met with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Friday and said the North Korean leader is committed to having his country participate in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the Beijing Winter Games in 2022.

Bach told an Associated Press Television crew that the two had a 30-minute formal meeting followed by 45 minutes of casual discussions while watching a football match Friday afternoon at Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium.

He called the talks productive and said Kim expressed his appreciation for the IOC’s role in helping North Korea compete at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea last month.

“We had a very fruitful meeting where it became clear that the supreme leader has a clear vision of the role that sport can play in a society with regard to education, with regard to health,” Bach said. He added that Kim told him the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang games and marching together with South Korean athletes were an “important contribution to a peaceful dialogue.”

Bach arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday to discuss development of sports in North Korea and the preparation of its athletes to qualify and participate in upcoming Olympics. He is the first foreign official to meet Kim since the North Korean leader returned earlier this week from a summit in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

That was Kim’s first known trip abroad since he assumed power after the death of his father in late 2011. Kim is to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27.

Bach, who also met with North Korea’s sports minister, said he received a commitment from the county’s National Olympic Committee to participate in Tokyo in 2020 and Beijing in 2022, along with competing in the respective youth Olympic Games.

“This commitment has been fully supported by the supreme leader Kim Jong Un in a meeting we had this afternoon,” he said. “He explained that sport is a pillar in his policy for the future development of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

Both the North and South hailed the Pyeongchang games as a significant step toward easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula that reached dangerously high levels last year as the North stepped up its missile tests and detonated its largest nuclear device to date.

Since the Olympics, the North has pushed forward with a flurry of diplomatic moves. After his summit with Moon, Kim is to meet U.S. President Donald Trump by May, though the date and location of that summit have not been announced. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he is exploring the possibility of a meeting with Kim as well.

The exact reasons behind Kim’s seeming change of tactics remain something of a mystery.

Hopes have been raised that the North Korean leader may be willing to discuss his nuclear weapons program and other measures to reduce the threat of war, possibly in exchange for security guarantees and an easing of the international sanctions that have severely pinched the already struggling North Korean economy.

Kim’s talks with Bach appear to have focused mostly on sports.

Raising the level of North Korean athletes has been high on Kim’s agenda since he became leader. Of the 22 North Korean athletes who competed in Pyeongchang, only two won places on merit and the other 20 were granted special spots by the IOC.

Bach, who is German, competed in the Olympics for West Germany when the Germanys were still divided and says that gives him a special feeling for the Koreas.

“It is the mission of the International Olympic Committee always to build bridges and by building these bridges through sport we can also make a contribution to the ongoing political talks,” he said, adding that he hopes the talks will lead “in the Olympic spirit to a peaceful future for the Korean Peninsula.”

Just Posted

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles tie Dawson Creek Canucks in front of massive hometown crowd in Port Hardy

The Tier 3 Bantam Championships continued in style last night at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.

Port Alice’s Scotiabank branch closing for good next month

Port Alice is going through a transition to a more diversified economy that includes tourism.

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles blast Kelowna Rockets in first game of the Championships in Port Hardy

The Eagles are back in action at 7:30 p.m. tonight against the Dawson Creek KFC Canucks.

Mowi Canada West releases statement on Nanaimo teenager’s workplace death

“Our thoughts are with the family at this time, all of us at Mowi are devastated by this tragedy.”

VIDEO: RCMP ask kids to help name soon-to-be police dogs

13 German shepherd puppies will be born this year

Horvat scores 16 seconds into OT as Canucks beat Blackhawks 3-2

Pettersson sets rookie scoring record for Vancouver

No injuries, pollution in Vancouver Harbour ship collision: Transport Canada

Transportation Safety Board says it has deployed a team of investigators look into the incident

Budget 2019: Five things to watch for in the Liberals’ final fiscal blueprint

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will release the Trudeau government’s final budget on Tuesday

New concussion guidelines launched for Canada’s Olympians, Paralympians

The guidelines will be in effect at this summer’s Pan American, Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru

Alphonso Davies doubtful for Canada game against French Guiana in Vancouver

Canada will be without injured captain Scott Arfield and veteran Will Johnson

Watchdog called after man who yelled racial slurs at B.C. vigil hurt during arrest

BC RCMP say man was ‘acting suspiciously’ at prayer vigil for victims of New Zealand mosque shootings

NDP’s Jagmeet Singh steps into the House of Commons, making history

Burnaby South MP becomes first visible minority to lead a federal party in the House of Commons

Most Read