OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has hailed North Korea's participation at the Games ©OCA

North Korea participating at Pyeongchang 2018 shows how sport can "bring people together" and provides a boost to the long-term peace effort, Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has claimed.

Sheikh Ahmad said the OCA were "heartened" by North Korea's decision to take part at this year's Winter Olympic Games, which was confirmed by officials in the country earlier this week following the first high-level talks with South Korea for two years.

It was announced yesterday that a four-party meeting will be held to discuss North Korea's participation at Pyeongchang 2018 at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne on January 20.

A number of motions which will be discussed at the meeting, due to be chaired by IOC President Thomas Bach, including the possibility of a joint North and South Korean women's ice hockey team.

Delegations are due to be present from the IOC and Pyeongchang 2018 as well as from the National Olympic Committee and Governments of both North and South Korea.

The news that North Korea will take part at the Games has been widely praised as a move which should ease political tensions in the region.

Sheikh Ahmad, also the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees, claimed it represented a "very positive" beginning to the New Year following a troubled 2017.

North Korea competing at Pyeongchang 2018 has been widely praised ©Getty Images
North Korea competing at Pyeongchang 2018 has been widely praised ©Getty Images

"This is a very positive start to the New Year for the global Olympic Movement and for long-term peace on the Korean peninsula," he said in a statement.

"The OCA is heartened by the announcement on Tuesday (January 9) and looks forward to seeing the flags of two of our member National Olympic Committees flying high together at Pyeongchang 2018.

"We still remember the participation of North Korea in the OCA's 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, in 2014, and the attention and interest that this generated among the people and the media.

"This latest announcement proves once again the power of sport to bring people together and unite the world in an environment of peace, friendship and tolerance.

"We wish the athletes from North Korea all success at Pyeongchang and look forward to their participation in the Olympic Winter Games."

The two Koreas have previously competed together under the unification flag in 1991 when they played as a single team in the World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan and the World Youth Football Championship in Lisbon, Portugal. 

They marched together at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, and at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, but more recent attempts at joining forces have proved unsuccessful.

Pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik are the only North Korean athletes to have so far qualified for Pyeongchang 2018.

They missed a deadline last month to accept their spot.

This will also be discussed at the meeting along with questions regarding the flag, anthem and uniform at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.