North Korea Drops Tokyo Olympics Citing COVID-19, Shatters South Korea’s Hopes | Tokyo Olympic Games News

SEOUL: North Korea will not join the Tokyo Olympics this year due to coronavirus concerns, the country’s sports ministry said on Tuesday, dashing South Korea’s hope that the Games could be a catalyst to revive the stalled peace talks.
It will be the first time North Korea has missed a Summer Olympics since it boycotted Seoul in 1988 in the midst of the Cold War.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in had hoped that the two countries, still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty, could send a combined team to Tokyo and restore momentum to improve relationships.
The withdrawal from northern Tokyo is also a setback for plans, agreed at a 2018 summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to pursue a joint Korean bid to host the 2032 Games.
When South Korea hosted the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Kim sent her sister to lead the country’s delegation, athletes from both sides marched under a unified flag at the opening ceremony and fielded a mixed women’s ice hockey team.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula increased last month when the North resumed missile testing, although both sides said after the launches they wanted to continue the dialogue.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry responsible for inter-Korean affairs said Seoul had hoped the Tokyo Olympics would be a chance to “foster peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas.”
“We regret that this could not have happened,” he added in a statement.
The North made its decision to withdraw from Tokyo at a meeting of its Olympic committee and Sports Minister Kim Il Guk on March 25, the ministry said on its website.
“The committee decided not to join the 32nd Olympic Games to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus,” he said.
North Korea says it has had no cases of the coronavirus.
Kim, known to be an American basketball fan, has publicly displayed his ambitions to promote professional sports.
The March 25 meeting also discussed ways to develop professional sports technology, earn more medals in international competitions and expand public sports activities over the next five years, the ministry said.