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Business as usual for European Tour ahead of Korean event

By Tony Jimenez

LONDON (Reuters) - Golf's European Tour is keeping a close eye on developments on the Korean peninsula ahead of the Ballantine's Championship in Seoul next week but organizers say it will be business as usual.

There has been hostility in the region for weeks because of United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea for a nuclear test.

On Thursday, the North offered the United States and South Korea conditions for talks while also saying denuclearization of the peninsula could begin when the U.S. removed weapons the isolated state says Washington has deployed in the region.

"We are closely monitoring the political situation in Korea but at the moment we do not perceive any problems in terms of the Ballantine's Championship taking place as scheduled," the European Tour's director of international policy Keith Waters said in a statement.

Six-times tour winner Alvaro Quiros told Reuters earlier this month that he would not compete in the South Korean tournament.

"I don't think it's a good moment to go there," said the Spaniard. "It would be a stupid idea with the way things are.

"I don't want to mess with my life just to play in a golf tournament."

The tension has eased somewhat since Quiros made his comments and the tour said his views were not representative of all the players.

"The Quiros situation is the only one we've had," a tour spokesman told Reuters. "Conversations have taken place with the players and we've sent messages to reassure them that everything will be run as normal.

"The players are pretty happy with everything that's in place. Damian Turner, our championship manager and staging director, is out there at the moment dealing with the infrastructure and setting up of the tournament.

"He said it is work as usual and the locals are going about their normal day-to-day business. Most of them are showing little interest in what is happening in the North and preparations for the tournament are going well."

World number seven Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and U.S. Ryder Cup players Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson are among the golfers due to take part in the event which carries a prize fund of 2.2 million euros ($2.87 million).

"The European Tour will keep us up to date on relevant issues and are liaising with key decision-makers including the Foreign Office," said the tournament sponsors.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and take direction from the European Tour who are responsible for liaising with the players. We fully support the European Tour but respect the decision of individual players to make their own choices."

The sixth edition of the Ballantine's Championship will be staged at the Blackstone Golf and Country Club and starts next Thursday.

($1 = 0.7668 euros)

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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