By Nick Butler at the Main Press Centre in Incheon

APC President Dato Zainal Abu Zarin (left) and Organising Committee chief Kim Sung Il see the participation as a way to improve North-South relations ©APCNorth Korea have confirmed they will send a 33-strong delegation to compete in four sports at the Asian Para Games here next month, in what will be the first time the country has participated in a multi-sport Paralympic event south of the border.

In an email to the Asian Paralympic Committee (APC), NPC North Korea explained 17 of the 33 set to attend the Games being held from October 18 to 24 would be athletes, with nine competing in archery, four in table tennis, three in swimming and one in athletics.

They expressed hopes that the participation of the Northers delegation would "contribute to peace and friendship, and the continuous development of Para sports in the Asian region".

These sentiments have been welcomed by APC President Dato Zainal Abu Zarin, who has reiterated how sport is a powerful tool that can be used towards "fostering and strengthening solidarity and relations among nations".

He added that he looks forward to a smooth participation by the North, with the APC planning to provided assistance and support to Organising Committee to deal with any extra issues that may arise.

"We believe in our motto 'One Vision, One Mission, One Hope' in strengthening ties through the enhancement of the Paralympic Movement and Games, regardless of our differences," he said.

North Korean participation has been a highlight of the ongoing Asian Games, in a sporting, symbolic and atmospheric sense ©Getty ImagesNorth Korean participation has been a highlight of the ongoing Asian Games, in a sporting, symbolic and atmospheric sense ©Getty Images

This comes as a 150-strong North Korean team spanning 14 sports competes here at the Asian Games, with the team having received an impressively vocal reception when they appeared at the Opening Ceremony.

This is despite the fact North and South Korea are still officially at war ever since an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, was signed to end the Korean War in 1953, with the Northern flag and anthem usually banned south of the border.

A strong sense of harmony and camaraderie has continued throughout the Games, with North Korean sporting success in sports like weightlifting and gymnastics having created some of the defining memories here so far.

But today's announcement is extra-significant because North Korea has far less of a precedent in the Paralympic events, with the country having long refused to compete at the Games,

Concerns have been raised by the international community about the mistreatment of disabled people in the nation.

In recent years the situation has begun to change, with North Korea obtaining provisional membership of the International Paralympic Committee in March 2012, before swimmer Rim Ju Song became the first ever Paralympian from the country at London 2012.

He came 19th in the men's 50 metres freestyle S6 category.

In this context, the news that a larger team will compete in Incheon is also a sign that the country is now targeting Paralympic disciplines in order to continue its growth a sporting power. 

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