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North Korea's decision to skip World Cup qualifiers not final, reports say

North Korea’s football association said in a letter sent Friday to the Asian Football Confederation that it will not send the national team to South Korea for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. File Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI
North Korea’s football association said in a letter sent Friday to the Asian Football Confederation that it will not send the national team to South Korea for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. File Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

May 4 (UPI) -- South Korea said it will "wait" for the results of negotiations regarding North Korea's participation in the World Cup qualifiers before confirming Pyongyang's decision to not send its soccer team to matches in the South.

A unification ministry official said Tuesday that the notification from North Korea is not final, and that the government is waiting for a statement from the Asian Football Confederation, South Korean network KBS reported.

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Seoul will "wait for the AFC to complete its internal procedures, then notify the government of its final position," the ministry official said, according to Yonhap.

The South Korean government source also said the confederation asked North Korea to reconsider its decision.

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"We are still monitoring the negotiations between the AFC and the North," the source said.

Report of South Korea's response to North Korea's decision comes after Korea Football Association spokesman Lee Jae-chul said Monday that North Korea informed the confederation by letter Friday that it will not take part in the second round of qualifiers in June.

The North Korean football association raised concerns about the global coronavirus pandemic in its message to the group, according to reports.

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The South Korean unification ministry source said it supports civil exchange between the two Koreas, including in sports.

"Amid the negotiation process with the AFC at the center, the unification ministry has said it will undertake a position of cooperation and support if there is any need," the source said. "This has been and continues to be our position."

The two Koreas were expected to play in matches among Asian countries in Group H during the second round of qualifiers in June, ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Other teams represent Turkmenistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka.

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Second round matches were postponed due to COVID-19, according to reports.

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