By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – North Korea on Monday informed South Korean authorities that it was cancelling an inter-Korean cultural event ahead of next month’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Pyongyang sent a telegram shortly after 10 p.m. (1300 GMT) informing Seoul of the cancelation of the schedule for the Feb. 4 joint performance at the North's Mount Kumgang resort apparently due to increasing scrutiny over the reclusive state's motivations for reaching out to improve relations with its southern neighbor.
The South Korean government described the decision as "very regrettable".
The event had been set up as part of breakthrough cooperation efforts in line with the Winter Olympics, which will start in South Korea on Feb. 9. During a New Year's Day address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered his country's participation in the Games -- prompting the first inter-Korean talks in over two years.
According to Seoul's Unification Ministry, North Korea's explanation for pulling out of Sunday's event was that there had been "biased" media reports in the South.
Local news agency Yonhap also suggested Pyongyang was upset by South Korean coverage of a possible military parade in the North on the eve of the Olympics, a plan described by Seoul's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon last week as potentially "intimidating."
In response to Monday night's telegram, the ministry said "it is very regrettable that an event agreed by the South and the North will not be held due to North Korea's unilateral notification."
The statement called on Pyongyang to honor their other recent agreements, which include arrangements for North Korean performances in the South and a joint women's ice hockey team at the Winter Games.
"What has been agreed must be implemented under the spirit of mutual respect and understanding as the South and the North have only taken a hard-earned first step toward improving the South-North relationship," the ministry added.