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N’Korea withdraws from Tokyo Olympics citing pandemic

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North Korea does not plan to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo due to the coronavirus pandemic, a website operated by the country’s sports ministry said.

The Pyongyang Olympic Committee made the decision on March 25, according to the official website for Sports in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The committee reportedly said the decision was to “protect our athletes from the global health crisis” caused by the coronavirus.

There has been no official confirmation from authorities in isolated North Korea.

North Korea is one of the few countries that has yet to report a single case of the coronavirus, but observers speculate the virus is present there. The Tokyo Olympics are due to start on July 23.

The Organizing Committee for the Japanese Olympic Games in Tokyo responded with a brief statement.

“We will continue to prepare for the Games by working closely with related organizations so that athletes from every country and region can demonstrate their best performance,” the committee said.

Seoul, meanwhile, expressed regret over Pyongyang’s decision to cancel.

“The government hoped to advance peace on the Korean Peninsula and reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas through the Tokyo Olympics,” South Korea‘s Unification Ministry said.

He added that it was unfortunate that this had not been possible due to the pandemic.

The two Koreas took advantage of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to come together despite the political challenges.

The sport has hardly been affected by the sanctions against North Korea imposed by the UN Security Council on the country’s nuclear weapons program.

In Pyeongchang, North Korea was represented by 22 athletes, including 12 ice hockey players in a joint team with South Korea.

Chief Kim Jong Un sent high-ranking delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as a large orchestra and a taekwondo performance troupe for the support program.

Bilateral sports exchanges were initially expanded after the events.

Recently, however, such attempts at rapprochement have failed in sport and beyond, amid a broader failure to make political progress.

(NAN)

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