N Korean women team to skip soccer competition in S Korea

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, file photo provided by the Korea Football Association, South and North Korean, wearing red uniforms, players play during their Asian zone Group H qualifying soccer match for the 2022 World Cup at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea. The South Korean soccer association said Friday, Oct. 18, it has requested that North Korea be punished for blocking rival fans and media from attending a World Cup qualifier between the countries at an empty stadium in Pyongyang. (The Korea Football Association via AP, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2019, file photo provided by the Korea Football Association, South Korea's Son Heung-min, left, fights for the ball against North Korea's Han Kwang Song during their Asian zone Group H qualifying soccer match for the 2022 World Cup at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea. The South Korean soccer association said Friday, Oct. 18, it has requested that North Korea be punished for blocking rival fans and media from attending a World Cup qualifier between the countries at an empty stadium in Pyongyang. (The Korea Football Association via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea won't send its women's soccer team to a regional competition in South Korea in December amid strained ties between the two countries.

The East Asian Football Federation said Wednesday that North Korea informed it in mid-September that it won't take part in the 2019 EAFF E-1 championship in the southeastern city of Busan.

"We feel that North Korea is not participating in the event due to a complicated reason (caused by politics). I think it is something the North Korean football officials cannot handle by themselves," Park Yong Soo, the EAFF general secretary, said.

South Korea's soccer association said it also confirmed North Korea's decision when association officials visited Pyongyang earlier this month for a men's World Cup qualifier match between the two Koreas. Korean Football Association officials said North Korea gave no reason for deciding not to send a women's team.

The development is yet another sign of deteriorating sporting ties between the two Koreas amid lack of progress in a broader global diplomacy on North Korea's nuclear program.

North Korea blocked fans and international media from attending the World Cup qualifier at an empty stadium in Pyongyang. There was no live broadcast of the match, which ended in a scoreless draw. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he was "disappointed."

South Korea's soccer association later sought a sanction for North Korea, sending a letter to the Asian Football Confederation and arguing that North Korea failed to uphold rules requiring host nations to grant visas and entries for traveling supporters and media without discrimination.

Sports exchanges often mirror the status of political ties between the two Koreas, which remain split along the world's most heavily fortified border for about 70 years.

Last year, athletes from the two Koreas walked together during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and fielded a joint team in some events as their relations improved ahead of the start of the nuclear diplomacy. But North Korea boycotted the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics, both held in Seoul.

___

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Must Read

China ratifies Paris climate deal ahead of G-20...

Sep 3, 2016

China announced on Saturday that it would formally enter the emissions-cutting agreement reached...

Hong Kong election highlights rising anti-China...

Sep 4, 2016

Polls opened in Hong Kong Sunday for the specially administered Chinese city's most crucial...

Giant panda is no longer endangered, experts say

Sep 5, 2016

A leading international group has taken the giant panda off its endangered list thanks to decades...

China imports grow in August for 1st time in 2...

Sep 8, 2016

China trade showed unexpected strength in August in a positive sign for global economic growth

US tycoon's China scholarship project opens doors...

Sep 10, 2016

A new scholarship program intended to rival the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships and build...