Australia's South Korea tour to go ahead despite safety fears
By Daniel Lane
Sydney Morning Herald
July 10, 2011
ATHLETICS AUSTRALIA has confirmed it intends to travel to South Korea to participate in next month's IAAF world championships despite heightened tensions between the North and South.
Last month, the North threatened to launch ''a retaliatory sacred war'' against South Korea for what it alleged was slander as the two sides held rare talks on a stalled joint tourism project.
A Pyongyang government spokesman said the South's frontline military units had displayed slogans that ridiculed the North's ''army, system and dignity'' and said the slogans were ''little short of a clear declaration of war''.
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It added to a litany of recent stand-offs which had alarmed the United Nations and Washington, but in a message relayed to The Sun-Herald via a staff member at Athletics Australia, the national high performance manager, Eric Hollingsworth, said there were no changes to plans to send a team.
The chief executive of Athletics Australia, Dallas O'Brien, was on holiday and unavailable for comment. The Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib, was in Singapore for the world netball championships and also unavailable for comment.
It was understood Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would monitor the situation. However, its web page advisory for those travelling to South Korea urged caution as relations between the two nations were tense.
Last year's Commonwealth Games in India were disrupted by fears of terrorist attacks and disease.
A number of athletes from around the world, including Australia's world discus champion, Dani Samuels, withdrew from the team.
While the Games were incident-free, the situation in Korea remained a concern because:
South Korean marines stationed less than two kilometres from the border opened fire on a Chinese passenger jet last month after it was mistaken for a North Korean fighter plane.
Last November, the North's artillery bombarded a South Korean island killing four people.
In 2010, the North was accused of sinking a South Korean warship in which 46 sailors' lives were lost.
South Koreans marked the first anniversary of the sinking with a series of military drills around the nation, including in Daegu, where the athletics championships will be staged.
The Korean city was awarded the championships in 2006 ahead of Brisbane and Moscow.
The event that runs from August 27 to September 4 is ranked alongside the 1988 Olympics and 2002 FIFA World Cup as one of the global sports events hosted in that nation.