'Ping-pong diplomacy' brings DPRK, ROK closer

Updated: 2011-11-22 07:58

By Guo Ji (China Daily)

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Pyongyang, Seoul's players to pair up at table tennis contest

BEIJING - Table tennis will help to foster goodwill for the second time in two decades between the Democratic People Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), with their players competing alongside each other at an international tournament starting on Tuesday.

Paired in doubles teams, players from the DPRK and the ROK will compete at the 2011 Peace and Sport Cup Tournament on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.

Twenty years have passed since DPRK and ROK players first competed in a joint team at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan.

The DPRK and the ROK will be joined at the Doha tournament by India, Pakistan, Russia, the United States, France, Japan, China and Qatar.

As a sporting event conceived to encourage dialogue and reconciliation between nations, the tournament was established by the Monaco-based charity Peace and Sport and the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

"We're hoping this will bring closer relations to the nations involved," Glenn Tepper, ITTF development director, said on the tournament's official website.

In the men's doubles, the ROK's Ryu Seung-min, a former Olympic champion, will pair with the DPRK's Kim Hyok-bong. On the women's side, Kim Kyong-ah will represent the ROK and Kim Hye-song will play for the DPRK.

The players said on Sunday that they are looking forward to the rare opportunity of playing alongside each other, according to the ROK's Yonhap News Agency.

Meanwhile, ROK Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik is visiting China from Monday to Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Monday.

China expects an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks, said Liu, adding that bilateral communication and the multilateral mechanism of the talks complement each other.

The parties concerned have exchanged notes on the Six-Party Talks, and the gathering of momentum is expected to continue, said Liu.

"Yu's current trip to China is sending signals to related parties that Seoul is hoping to improve its ties with Pyongyang," said Zhang Liangui, professor of international strategic research at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

The Six-Party Talks should be resumed without any preconditions, said Zhang, adding that as long as the mechanism to eliminate disputes exists, stability will be guaranteed on the Korean Peninsula.

China believes that the Six-Party Talks is an effective platform to achieve denuclearization as well as peace and stability on the peninsula, and to promote regional peace in Northeast Asia, said Liu.

Yu, the ROK's former ambassador to China, was appointed as unification minister by President Lee Myung-bak in August.

Yu's switch in his posts shows that the ROK is adjusting its strategy on ties with the DPRK, said Zhang.

The ROK's Ministry of Unification said Yu will meet State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun during his three-day trip, according to AFP.

Shen Mingchun contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/22/2011 page11)