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N. Korean delegation to Para Asiad arrives in S. Korea

2014/10/11 21:29

INCHEON, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- The North Korean delegation to the upcoming Asian Para Games arrived in South Korea on Saturday amid heightened cross-border tensions after the two Koreas exchanged machine gun fire.

The 29-member squad, including nine athletes, flew to Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to South Korea, via Beijing to take part in the para Asiad slated for Oct. 18-24 in the South's western port city of Incheon.

It is the first time that North Korea has sent its athletes to the Para Games. The communist country had dispatched a 273-member delegation to the Incheon Asian Games that ended last week.

Donning white jackets and blue bottoms, the North Korean athletes and officials waived to dozens of South Korean citizens who welcomed them. They smiled as they walked out of the airport but refused to answer when reporters asked them how they felt.

According to the Para Games' organizing committee, the North Koreans are scheduled to be officially welcomed into the athletes' village in a ceremony due next week.

The continental multisport event for athletes with disabilities is expected to bring thousands of participants from some 40 countries in Asia.

The North Koreans' trip to South Korea comes at a time when inter-Korean relations stand at a crossroads.

During the high-level inter-Korean talks last week, the two sides agreed to hold another round of talks before early November at the latest, but Pyongyang hinted at calling it off, citing cross-border tensions.

A day earlier, the two Koreas traded machine gun fire across their tense border after Pyongyang apparently attempted to shoot down balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated by civic activists here. After some of the North Korean machine gun shots landed south of the border, South Korean troops fired back in response.