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(3rd LD) N. Korea decides not to participate in Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus concerns

North Korea 15:36 April 06, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS foreign ministry spokesperson's comment in last 2 paras)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Tuesday it will not participate in the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics to protect its athletes against the coronavirus pandemic, dashing South Korea's hopes to use the games to kickstart the stalled peace process with Pyongyang.

The decision was made during a general assembly meeting of the North's Olympic Committee held in Pyongyang on March 25, according to Sports in the DPRK Korea, a website on sports affairs in North Korea.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games during the general assembly to protect our athletes from the global health crisis situation related to the coronavirus as proposed by committee members," the website said.

A captured image of the North Korean website Sports in the DPRK Korea. (Yonhap)

State media earlier reported that the North held the meeting via video links to discuss "practical issues linked to actively organize public sport events," but did not announce the decision not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics set to kick off in July.

South Korea has hoped to use the sports event as a major chance to engage with Pyongyang amid stalled cross-border dialogue as was the case with the North sending athletes to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which led to the historic first-ever summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korea has claimed to be coronavirus-free but has placed tight border controls and taken other antivirus measures to ward off an outbreak in the country since early last year.

Seoul's foreign ministry said the government still hopes the North will take part.

"We support Japan's hosting of the Olympics with anti-coronavirus measures, and as the Olympics is a festival of world peace, and there is time left ahead, we hope that North Korea will participate," ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said in a press briefing.

This photo showing North Korean athletes at the closing of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 25, 2018, was released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the following day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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