North Korean officials said they decided against participating "to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19." It's the first country to drop out of the games over virus concerns.
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.
According to a website run by the Sports Ministry, officials "decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19."
The decision was made during a meeting on March 25 between Sports Minister Kim Il Guk and the national Olympic Committee.
North Korean state media had previously mentioned the committee meeting, but had not reported on its outcome.
It will be the first time North Korea has missed a Summer Olympics since it boycotted Seoul in 1988 during the Cold War.
What does this mean for Korean relations?
The decision not to participate is a setback for South Korean officials who hoped that the Olympic Games could serve as a catalyst to revive stalled peace talks between the two nations.
With Pyongyang out, the two nations will not be able to jointly field teams — something that many in South Korea had hoped would transpire once again.
South Korea's Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said Seoul had hoped the Tokyo Olympics would be a chance to "foster peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas"."We regret it could not happen," it added in a statement.
The decision also dealt a blow to will also weaken chances that the two Koreas will be chosen to jointly host the 2032 Games, an idea agreed upon during a 2018 summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In the 2018 Winter Olympics held in South Korea, North Korea sent 22 athletes along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member cheering group.
Japan to extend sanctions
Separately at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Japanese government decided to extend its sanctions on North Korea for another two years.
Previously set to expire on April 13th, Japan will continue to ban all imports and exports to North Korea and restrict North Korean vessels from docking in Japan.
The Japanese government maintains the sanctions will put more pressure on the North to denuclearize, abandon further ballistic missile testing programs and address the ongoing abduction of Japanese citizens.
According to reports from the Kyodo News outlet, similar measures have been levied and extended since 2006.(AP, AFP)