A North Korean website reported on Tuesday that the country will not join in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, a move that could make it the first major country to skip the games because of the pandemic.
The decision to miss the Olympics scheduled to start in July was made March 25 by the country’s Olympics committee, which cited the need to protect its athletes amid the global health crisis, Sports in the DPR Korea, a website run by North Korea’s sports ministry, said Tuesday.
The upcoming Olympics in long-time adversary Japan offered an opportunity for Kim Jong Un’s isolated regime to engage with the outside world. But Kim has imposed strict measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country, being among the first in the world to close borders even though the move halted what little was left of the heavily sanctioned country’s legal trade. Pyongyang has also viewed Japan as its enemy for decades, threatening to “sink” its neighbor and adding hundreds of missiles to its arsenal that could hit Japan and the US bases where tens of thousands of American soldiers are stationed. Tokyo Olympic organizers have not received a notice from North Korea and said so far there have been no notifications from any national organizing committee of a withdrawal from the games due to virus concerns.
It will be the first time North Korea has missed a Summer Olympics since it boycotted Seoul in 1988 during the Cold War.