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North Korean athletes are heading to northern Japan for the 5th Asian Winter Games, which begin Feb. 1.

Aomori organizing committee officials said last week the communist country confirmed it will send seven men and women to compete in short track speed skating events at the Misawa Ice Arena, a 10-minute drive from Misawa Air Base.

Eighteen women will also appear in women’s ice hockey games inside the Misawa venue. Accompanying the athletes will be 22 North Korean officials.

Uncertainty surrounded the North Korean contingent after its delegation failed to meet a December entry deadline.

North Korea skaters also will compete in men’s and women’s figure skating events set for the prefectural capital of Aomori, 45 miles northwest of Misawa.

The country did not send entrants for the alpine, cross country and long track speed skating events.

Twenty-eight countries and regions with 1,095 athletes and officials are participating in the games, which are being held at six venues in the prefecture.

Events near Misawa Air Base

Here are events set for Misawa and Hachinohe, 15 miles south of the air base:

Short track speed skating at Misawa Ice Arena: Feb. 6, 13:00: men’s and women’s 1,500 meter and 500 meter, men’s 5,000-meter relay preliminary. Feb. 7, 13:00: men’s and women’s 1,000 meter and 3,000 meter, women’s 3,000-meter relay, men’s 5,000-meter relay finals.

Women’s ice hockey held at Misawa Ice Arena: Jan. 30-31; Feb. 2-3: 1 p.m. each day. Feb. 5: Beginning 10:30 a.m.

Men’s Ice Hockey held at Hachinohe’s Niida Indoor Rink: Feb. 2: 2 p.m., Group A 1st match, Mongolia vs Kazakhstan; 6 p.m., Group B 1st match, Thailand vs. Japan. Feb. 3: 2 p.m., Group A 2nd match, South Korea vs. Mongolia; 6 p.m., Group B 2nd match, China vs. Thailand. Feb. 4: 2 p.m., Group A 3rd match, Kazakhstan vs. South Korea; 6 p.m., Group B 3rd match, Japan vs. China. Feb 6: 11 a.m., 5th/6th place match; 2:30 p.m.; 6 p.m., semifinals. Feb. 7: 1 p.m., 3rd/4th place match; 5 p.m., finals.

Speed skating at Hachinohe’s Nagane Park: Feb. 2: 10:00 a.m., women’s 3,000 meter, men’s 5,000 meter, women’s 500 meter first run and men’s 500 meter first run. Feb. 3: 10:00 a.m., women’s 500 meter second run, men’s 500 meter second run, women’s 1,500 meter and men’s 1,500 meter. Feb. 5: 10:00 a.m., women’s 1,000 meter, men’s 1,000 meter and men’s 10,000 meter.

¶ Tickets for indoor events, including short track speed skating and women’s ice hockey in Misawa, and men’s ice hockey in Hachinohe, cost 500 yen, or about $4.27 per ticket.

¶ Tickets for figure skating in Aomori, excluding exhibitions, are 1,500 yen, or $12.82, for S seats; 1,000 yen, or $8.55, for A seats; and 500 yen, or $4.27, for B seats.

¶ Organizing committee spokesman Toyomitsu Hamadate said the sale date for tickets to the Misawa women’s ice hockey events still is undecided. They may be sold on the day of the scheduled games.

¶ Unsold tickets to other events, he added, may be sold on the day of the events for an additional 500 yen. Tickets for all outdoor events, however, are free.

¶ Tickets for indoor venues can be purchased at Circle K and Sunkus convenience stores throughout Japan.

Other events to be held in the prefecture include:

Aomori: Figure skating and curling.

Owani: Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and ski jumping.

Iwaki: Biathlon.

Ajigasawa: Freestyle skiing, snowboarding.

The first Asian Winter Games were held in 1986 in Sapporo, Japan. That city also hosted the 1990 games after host India withdrew, citing financial difficulties.

The 5th Winter Asian Games Web site is http://www.ocasia.org/asiangames/aomori.asp.

Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

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