Kim Jong-un said he is optimistic about North Korea's participation in the Asian Games on Sunday, despite threatening to boycott the sporting event days earlier.
Kim stated he has “great expectations” that North Korea's athletes will perform well in the regional games, according to state news agency KCNA. He also stated the sporting event could help improve relations with South Korea, KCNA has reported. Relations between the two Koreas have stumbled in recent months, amid rising tensions on the peninsula.
The latest comments came after Kim reportedly watched his national football team score a 12-0 point victory against another domestic team during a recent practice match.
The Asian Games will be held in the South Korean city of Incheon from 19 September to 4 October.
Kim's upbeat remarks came just days after Pyongyang and Seoul hit a deadlock on Thursday in talks aimed at coordinating North Korea's participation in the games.
KCNA has claimed the South pushed for the North Korean government to foot the bill for their athletes' stay in Incheon, and tried to impose restrictions on the size of the North Korean flag at the games.
South Korea normally covers the costs of visiting North Korean athletes.
A South Korean official has told AFP the issues of contention were open to negotiation, but North Korean officials staged a “unilateral walkout”.
“North Korea is distorting what happened as a negotiating tactic,” the unnamed official told AFP.
North Korea is expected to send around 150 athletes to the games, and a cheer-leading team.