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U.N. chief predicts joint Korean team at university event

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the high-level meeting on countering nuclear terrorism on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the high-level meeting on countering nuclear terrorism on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations

SEOUL (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed confidence that North and South Korea can field a joint team for the 2015 World University Games, local media reported on Monday.

The games are to be held the southwestern South Korean city Gwangju, and organizers have signed a cooperation agreement with the U.N. to help the countries form a unified team.

"We are exploring the possibility of the first-ever united Korean team to compete jointly at the event," Ban told a forum in Seoul promoting sports diplomacy.

"(The games) will be a wonderful opportunity for students to come together for sports and culture, value and understanding.

"I am certain that the whole peninsula will share the product of it," the U.N. chief added.

North and South Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The two Koreas have competed as a single nation in sport before, at the 1991 world table tennis championships and at the 1991 FIFA world youth championship.

However, they have never joined forces for multi-sports events such as the Olympics, Asian Games or World University Games.

Their athletes and officials have marched together at opening ceremonies but not since 2007 with political tensions between the countries frequently escalating.

North Korea shelled a South Korean island in 2010, killing four people, including two civilians, after a military exercise by the South and similar threats have followed.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by John O'Brien)

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