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North Korea will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics this summer due to fears over the Covid-19 pandemic, the Sports Ministry in Pyongyang announced on Tuesday, shattering Seoul’s hopes of using the event to revive peace talks.
North Korea will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics this summer because of the risk of infection with Covi-19, an announcement, made Tuesday, April 6, which ends South Korean hopes of using the Olympics to revive talks with Pyongyang.
At a meeting, the North Korean National Olympic Committee “decided not to participate in the 32e Olympic Games to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by Covid-19, “said the communications department of the Pyongyang Sports Ministry.
The participation of North Korea, a nuclear power isolated from the rest of the world, in the last Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was a decisive factor in the spectacular diplomatic rapprochement that took place in 2018.
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Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, had attended the Games as her brother’s envoy, and the North Korean participation was widely publicized.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in then seized the opportunity to initiate a mediation between Pyongyang and Washington which had led to historic summits between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
End of hopes for a relaunch of talks
But the announcement made on Tuesday by Pyongyang puts an end to Seoul’s hopes of using the 2020 Games, postponed until this summer, to spark a relaunch of the process of discussion between Pyongyang and Washington, which has stopped since the failure ‘Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi in February 2019.
President Moon made his intentions clear on 1er March in his speech for South Korea’s National Independence Day. “The Tokyo Olympics being held this year could be an opportunity for dialogues between South Korea and Japan, North and South, North Korea and Japan, and North Korea and the United States. United”.
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Pyongyang’s waiver announcement, dated Monday, was posted on the Sports Ministry website on Tuesday. She refers to a meeting of the North Korean National Olympic Committee on March 25.
The South Korean Unification Ministry said on Tuesday “sorry that the situation due to Covid” prevents the Tokyo Games from being “an opportunity to advance peace on the Korean peninsula”.
In Tokyo, senior government spokesperson Katsunobu Kato said Japanese authorities were monitoring information on the matter and working to improve the situation, including taking “infection control countermeasures. , so that many countries and regions can participate in the Tokyo Games “.
But a South Korean analyst said the coronavirus was probably not the only reason for the North Korean decision not to participate in the Games.
“Pyongyang appears to be protesting Japan’s policy towards North Korea as sensitive issues like human rights and sanctions have been raised in Tokyo along with the United States,” Yang told AFP Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
North Korea is hit by numerous international sanctions because of its nuclear weapons and missile programs prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.
It is more isolated than ever since it instituted a very strict closure of its borders more than a year ago, in order to protect itself from the Covid-19 which initially appeared in China, to which it borders, before spreading in the whole world.
Pyongyang says it does not have a case of Covid-19 in its territory. Experts question this claim.
The administration of US President Joe Biden, who came to power in January, says it is in the final stages of reviewing its future policy towards North Korea. US officials are expected to favor a resumption of talks at a low level rather than spectacular high-stakes summits.