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North Korea’s Olympic Committee will send athletes to Japan for next month’s Asian Winter Games near Misawa Air Base after all.

Organizers of the 5th Asian Winter Games, which begin Feb. 1, said last week they hadn’t received a firm answer from the North Korean committee regarding participation. Asian games officials were quoted by the Japanese newspaper Too Nippo as saying North Korea sent an e-mail on Thursday indicating they are compiling the necessary paperwork in order to send athletes.

Earlier, the North Korean delegation announced that the men’s hockey team would not compete.

North Korea’s women’s ice hockey team was expected to challenge the Japanese team for the gold medal, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.

An Aomori organizing committee official said ticket sales for the women’s ice hockey venue at the Misawa Ice Arena are still in limbo, since matchups haven’t been finalized due to the North Korean matter.

“We have to wait and see whether North Korea will enter or not since the matchups cannot be determined until then,” spokesman Toymitsu Hamadate said.

In the worst-case scenario, Hamadate said, they would sell tickets on the day of the games.

Japan’s Justice and Foreign Ministries must now get involved with the necessary screening for North Korean athletes to visit the country.

Men’s and women’s short-track speed skating events are being staged in the Misawa Ice Arena, about a 10-minute drive from Misawa Air Base’s front gate.

Tickets for the winter games can be purchased at Circle K and Sunkus convenience stores throughout Japan.


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