North Korea
North Korea has so far sent cheerleaders to South Korea only three times since the Korean WarReuters

North Korea has said it will send cheerleaders along with its athletes to the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, as a gesture of peace after weeks of hostilities.

The cheerleaders will be sent to "improve relationships" between the North and the South, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea last sent cheerleaders in 2005 for the Asian Athletics Championships, which were also held in Incheon. The 101-strong contingent included Ri Sol-ju, who went on to marry leader Kim Jong-un, according to Reuters.

The North, which regularly threatens to fire rockets at the South, has only sent cheerleaders three times since the Korean War. The two sides are technically still at war after the 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

North Korea stated that its decision to send cheerleaders later this year would "create an atmosphere" of reconciliation. It is sending 150 athletes to the games, which will begin on 19 September.

"It is necessary to put an end to all kinds of calumnies and vituperation that foster misunderstanding and distrust among the fellow countrymen," the North said in a statement carried by its official news agency.

"We have decided to dispatch a cheerleading squad along with the athletes to the 17th Asian Games in order to improve relationships between the North and the South and to create an atmosphere of national reconciliation."

Despite their rare appearances, the North's cheerleaders have proved to be a huge attraction in the South since the war, with their tightly choreographed routines and messages of unification.

Over the past few months, North Korea has threatened a fourth nuclear test in violation of UN sanctions. The country has reiterated calls for both sides to draw an end to hostilities, yet has continued to fire short-range missiles and rockets three times in the past ten days.

Last week, during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul, South Korea's President Park Geun-hye called on North Korea to denuclearise and stop nuclear tests. His visit was considered by many to be a snub to the North, as it was the first trip where a Chinese leader visited the South first.