North Korea announces it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics

North Korea will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start on July 23. The information was released on Tuesday (5) by the country’s Ministry of Sport, according to news agencies Reuters and AFP.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) said that it had not been notified of the decision and that it had not received any request to release the country from its obligation to participate in the event, as provided for in the Olympic Charter.

The North Korean statement attributes the decision to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the government, the goal is to “protect athletes from the global health crisis” caused by the virus. According to information on the ministry’s website, the measure was approved by the national Olympic committee on March 25.

North Korea is the first country to renounce participation in this year’s Olympic Games due to the pandemic. The presence of its leaders in Tokyo was seen as a possible platform for rapprochement with neighboring South Korea.

At the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un sent his sister Kim Yo Jong to accompany the event. On the occasion, South Korean President Moon Jae-in took the opportunity to promote negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington that resulted in two meetings between Kim and the American president, at the time Donald Trump.

Pyongyang’s announcement puts an end to Seoul’s hopes of transforming the delayed Tokyo Games into a new opportunity to reactivate the peace negotiation process that has stalled since the failure of the last Kim-Trump meeting in Hanoi (Vietnam) in February 2019.

President Moon made his intentions clear on March 1, during a speech on the occasion of South Korea’s national independence holiday. “The Tokyo Olympics could be an opportunity for dialogue between South Korea and Japan, the North and South, North Korea and Japan, and North Korea and the United States. ”

Last week, Seoul announced the intention of a joint application by the Koreas for the 2032 Games. The Australian city of Brisbane, however, has already been chosen as the preferred venue for this edition by the IOC.

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, North Korea won seven medals, including two gold medals in weightlifting and artistic gymnastics.

The Tokyo Olympics should have taken place between July and August 2020, but was postponed for a year by the advance of Covid-19. The event is maintained for 2021, for now, but with a series of restrictions. Among them, there will be no presence of foreign fans in Japan.

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