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North Korea will not go to Olympics, citing risks of coronavirus infections

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People watch a television screen showing a news report about North Korea’s decision not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics due to the Covid-19 pandemic, at a railway station in Seoul on Tuesday. AFP

North Korea will not go to Olympics, citing risks of coronavirus infections

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 April 5 – 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.

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