UPDATE : 2019.7.18 THU 11:08
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White House: Joint Olympics march could give N. Koreans taste of freedom

The White House expressed hope Wednesday that North Koreans will get "a small taste of freedom" when they march together with South Koreans at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The two Koreas agreed earlier in the day to march under a "unified Korea" flag and field a joint women's ice hockey team for the Feb. 9-25 Games in the South.

North Korea's agreement to participate in the Olympics followed months of heightened tensions over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests last year.

"We see this as an opportunity for the regime to see the value of ending its international isolation via denuclearization," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during a regular news briefing. "We still are very much focused and hope that that happens."

On the march itself, she noted it would not be the first time.

"We hope that this experience gives North Korea and its athletes a small taste of freedom, and that rubs off and is something that spreads and impacts in these negotiations and in these conversations," she said.

The two Koreas marched together under a unified flag at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Seoul hopes that the ongoing inter-Korean talks, which are mostly limited to the Olympics, will pave the way for denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

Kim Jung-mi  edt@koreapost.com

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