18 October 2011

Japan to limit spectators traveling to World Cup qualifier in North Korea

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government has asked the Japan Football Association to limit the number of spectators traveling to Pyongyang to watch Japan's World Cup soccer qualifier against North Korea next month to around 200 to 300, government sources said Monday.

The government apparently decided to keep the number of Japanese going to North Korea for the match to a minimum as the Foreign Ministry has asked Japanese nationals to refrain from visiting the country as part of sanctions imposed following a North Korean missile launch in 2006.

It also likely determined that it would be difficult to protect Japanese nationals in the event of trouble at the stadium and elsewhere because Japan and North Korea do not maintain diplomatic relations.

The JFA is expected to respond positively to the government's request, but the move may draw complaints from fans.

The sources said the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry made the request to the JFA during the first half of October, also asking the association to limit the number of media personnel from Japan covering the event to around 50.

The request, however, is not legally binding and Japanese nationals can enter North Korea on their own if they obtain visas at the country's embassy or consulate in China.

Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives Seishiro Eto, who heads a parliamentary group promoting soccer diplomacy, is said to be also considering traveling to Pyongyang via Beijing to watch the Nov. 15 match.

Soccer world governing body FIFA has stipulated that the number of spectators and other details of qualifying round matches for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil should be decided through discussions between the countries of the host and visiting teams.

(Mainichi Japan) October 18, 2011

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