‘Decision to protect players from world public health crisis caused by COVID-19’

North Korea will not attend this year’s Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pyongyang’s sports ministry said, dashing Seoul’s hopes of using the Games to restart talks with its neighbor.

The isolated North’s participation in the last Winter Games, hosted by the South in Pyeongchang, was a catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee “decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19”, said the sports in the DPR Korea website, run by the sports ministry in Pyongyang.

But analysts said other factors may have been at play. The announcement – dated Monday – reported a meeting of the national Olympic committee on March 25.

All IOC member countries are required to take part in each Games under the Olympic charter.

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