The North Koreans have very few friends in Bulawayo
Zimbabwe on Friday appeared to back away from an announcement that North Korea's national team would train in the country ahead of the World Cup.
This follows protests over the Asian country's role in training an army unit accused of killing thousands of people.
Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi last month announced the North Korean team would train in Zimbabwe.
But Sports Minister David Coltart said on Friday the visit had not been finalised.
"First of all, it has not been confirmed that they are coming at all.
"If they did come, clearly, we will handle it in a sensitive way that recognises the history and emotions around the matter," Coltart said.
Even if they camp in Harare, we will still organise the protests
Methuseli Moyo Zimbabwe opposition politician
The original announcement triggered protests from opposition groups in south-western Matabeleland provinces where rights groups say a North Korean-trained army unit killed an estimated 20,000 people during President Robert Mugabe's crackdown on an insurgency in the region in the 1980s.
Coltart declined to comment on reports that the government had changed initial plans to have the North Koreans set up camp in Bulawayo, the main city in Matabeleland.
"The issue is now being handled in cabinet, so it is premature for me to speculate on how their visit will be managed," Coltart said.
Zimbabwe, whose tourism industry has declined sharply because of a decade-long economic and political crisis, has been courting nations that qualified for the World Cup finals to visit the country en route to South Africa, in a bid to boost revenue.
But political groups and rights activists in Matabeleland say they will protest against the North Koreans, even if they do not come to Bulawayo.
"We are relieved that they are no longer coming to Bulawayo, but we're worried that they could still be coming to Zimbabwe," said Methuseli Moyo, a spokesperson for the small opposition party ZAPU, which comprises mainly Matabeleland's Ndebele ethnic group.
"It should be the concern of every Zimbabwean that North Korea trained those who perpetrated the atrocities. Even if they camp in Harare, we will still organise the protests."
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