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North and South Korea try pingpong diplomacy by combining teams at world table tennis contest

As leaders from North and South Korea negotiate to forge new peace on their long-troubled peninsula, the nations have found another way to cooperate: in table tennis.

On Thursday, teams from the bordering countries were to face each other in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden.

Instead, they asked officials whether they could combine as a unified team that would advance to the semifinals. The request was approved.

“When I informed the board of directors about this development, the unified team received a standing ovation from the delegates, who showed their sign of support to this historic move,” said Thomas Weikert, president of the International Table Tennis Federation.

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Earlier this year, North and South Korea formed a unified women’s hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Political leadership subsequently met in a historic summit, paving the way for potential discussions between North Korea and the U.S. that could lead to denuclearization on the peninsula.

“This is a big historical decision for both our countries,” said Ryu Seungmin, a South Korean sports official. “This is an important statement to promote peace between our countries through table tennis.”

david.wharton@latimes.com

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