North Korea will not attend the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Pyongyang’s sports ministry said, citing the risks of coronavirus infection.
At a meeting, the North’s Olympic Committee “decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19”, the North’s sports ministry’s news service said.
The isolated, nuclear-armed North’s participation in the last Winter Games, in Pyeongchang in South Korea, was a key catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.
Leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong attended as his envoy, in a blaze of publicity, and the South’s President Moon Jae-in seized the opportunity to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington that led to a series of high-profile meetings between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
Pyongyang’s announcement puts an end to Seoul’s hopes of using the postponed Tokyo Games to trigger a reset in the deadlocked talks process.
The announcement — dated Monday — was carried by the Sports in the DPR Korea website run by the ministry and reported a meeting of the national Olympic committee on March 25.
The North’s official KCNA news agency had previously reported the committee meeting, without mentioning the Olympic decision.