April 07, 2021 13:06
North Korea on Tuesday said it will not take part in the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics citing fears of coronavirus. The decision dashes yet another of President Moon Jae-in's forlorn hopes of engaging the North by forming a unified team for the games.
The North Korean minister of sports in a statement Monday said the decision was made at a meeting on March 25 "in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19."
A spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry said, "We had hoped that the Olympics could serve as an opportunity to bring peace on the Korean Peninsula and make progress in inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation. It's regrettable that this has become unlikely."
The two Koreas had already agreed to field unified teams in basketball, rowing, judo and hockey.
Cheong Wa Dae made no comment. In a speech marking the 102nd anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement this year, Moon still expressed hope that the Olympics "may serve as an opportunity for dialogue" between the neighbors and allies.
The Olympics were postponed last year due to the pandemic but will go ahead this year in scaled-back form from July 23 to Aug. 8 in Tokyo. No foreign spectators will be allowed in stadiums and it remains unclear how many Japanese will be permitted to attend.
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