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Ping pong diplomacy: North Korean table tennis team to play in South

North Korean players are due to participate in next month's International Table Tennis Federation Korean Open in Daejeon, South Korea.

Ping pong diplomacy: North Korean table tennis team to play in South

North Korea will play in a table tennis competition in South Korea later this month in what is already being greeted as another case of 'ping pong diplomacy'.

The North will send a 25-member delegation to South Korea to participate in the Seamaster 2018 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Platinum Korea Open, slated to begin on 17 July in Daejeon.

"It is a proud moment for the ITTF to be able to support another sign of peace on the Korean Peninsula, by helping North Korea send a team to the Korean Open," said ITTF president Tomas Weikert.

This announcement marks the latest sign of warming ties between Cold War rivals.

Ping pong diplomacy

Table tennis will act again as a vehicle for peace.

The two Koreas, technically still at war, first bonded over the sport in 1991, when they joined forces for the World Table Tennis Championships in Japan and were victorious in the women’s team event.

Earlier this year, North and South Korea were due to face each other in the women's quarter-finals at the World Team Table Tennis Championships, but were given permission to form a joint team instead, losing to Japan in the semi-finals.

"The momentous unified team at the 2018 World [Team] Table Tennis Championships ... showed the world that countries can find peace on a table tennis table," Weikert said in a statement.

These events can perhaps be equated with the famous table tennis competition between the United States and China in 1971, when 15 players from the US were allowed to enter the Chinese mainland.

It was the first time an American delegation had visited China since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communist Party grabbed power.

A year later, China sent their team to the United States.

These events, known as 'ping pong diplomacy’, marked a thawing in Sino-American relations.

Recent Korean sports ties

Earlier this week, North and South Korea played four friendly basketball games at the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium in Pyeongyang.

First, mixed games were played, with participants from both countries combined in two teams – Team Peace and Team Prosperity - before South and North teams faced each other, with the South beating the North 81-74 in the women's game, and the North defeating the South 82-70 in the men's encounter.

For the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony on 9 February, North and South Korea marched together under a unified flag, and a joint team was formed for the women's hockey event.

Recently, the two Koreas announced they would field joint teams in canoeing, rowing and women's basketball at the upcoming Asian Games, and are in talks to march together at the event's opening ceremony.

The division of the Korean Peninsula occurred after World War II, with the United States and the Soviet Union occupying the two parts of the country.

North and South Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Military tension remains a fundamental obstacle to the improvement of Korean relations.


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