North Korea has declared that it will not compete in the Tokyo Olympics this year. They say the decision is taken to protect the athletes from the potential COVID virus.
The decision, however, puts an end to the hopes of South Korea using the Games to engage with the North. The countries are amid delayed cross-border talks.
In 2018, both sides entered a joint team at the Winter Olympics, which led to a series of historic summits.
Pyongyang says it has no signs of the virus, but the experts say it is unlikely.
The announcement, due to pandemic, makes North Korea the first significant country to skip the delayed 2020 Games. The Games it due to commence from the 23rd of July this year.
This would be the first time North Korea has skipped a Summer Olympics since 1988. In 1988, it missed boycotting Seoul Games at the time of the Cold War.
Hopes of South Korea smashed
According to a state-run site Sports in the DPRK report, the decision came out at an Olympic committee meeting. The committee meeting was held on the 25th of March.
North Korea had taken severe actions against the virus since its break out last year.
It shut its border in late January and later quarantined numbers of foreigners in its capital.
Since early last year, trains and wagons have been forbidden to enter or leave the country. Additionally, most of the international flights are at a halt as well.
There were hopes from South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in. He believed that the Games could be a spur for progress within the two Koreas.
That had been the case in 2018 when North Korea sent 22 athletes to the Winer Olympics in South Korea. Along with its government officials, 230 member cheering groups, and journalists.
Among the contingent was North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong. This was a move that helped it start tact with South Korea and the US.
The talks that followed led to a series of historic, high-profile meetings. The meetings were between the North Korean leader and former US President Donald Trump.
There were hopes for refined relations after the meeting, but nothing formed. Moreover, the air has since decayed.
North and South Korea technically are still at war. It is because no peace treaty was signed when the Korean War ended in 1953.