Seoul, South Korea (Associated Press)-North Korea became the first country to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics due to fear of the coronavirus. This decision highlights the challenges Japan faces in its efforts to host global sporting events amid the pandemic.
The website operated by the North Korean Ministry of Sports stated that its National Olympic Committee decided not to participate in the Olympics at its March 25 meeting to protect athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”
The pandemic has postponed the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for 2020, and organizers have rushed to take preventive measures, such as banning international spectators, to ensure the safety of athletes and residents.
However, what remains worrying is that the Olympics may intensify the spread of the virus, and Japan’s increasing number of cases and slow vaccine launches have also raised public doubts about whether the Olympics should be held.
The Japanese Olympic Committee said Tuesday that North Korea has not notified it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that the Japanese government hopes that many countries will participate in the Olympics and promised to take adequate anti-virus measures.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification expressed regret over North Korea’s decision, saying that it hopes the Tokyo Olympics will provide an opportunity to improve relations between North Korea and South Korea, which has declined due to the deadlock in the greater nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
North Korea sent 22 athletes to participate in the 201
At the Pyeongchang Games, North Korean and South Korean athletes marched together under a blue map symbolizing the unification of the Korean peninsula, and the red-clad North Korean cheerleaders attracted global attention. The North Koreans also put their first combined Olympic team into the women’s ice hockey game. Although they lost all five games by a total score of 28 to 2, they still attracted enthusiastic support from the crowd.
These games are also closely related to politics. The North Korean task force includes a powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who conveyed his brother’s wish to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which helped North Korea initiate talks with South Korea and the United States.
Since then, diplomatic efforts have been at an impasse, and North Korea’s decision to abandon its participation in the Tokyo Olympics is a setback in hopes of revitalizing it.
Although North Korea firmly declares that it does not have the coronavirus, the outside world has doubts whether North Korea is completely free from the pandemic, because North Korea’s medical infrastructure is weak and its borders with China and its economic lifeline are not aligned.
North Korea described its anti-virus work as a “ethnic existence”, severely restricting cross-border traffic, banning tourists from entering, expelling diplomats, and mobilizing thousands of symptomatic quarantine personnel.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has previously stated that he hopes to invite US President Biden to participate in the Olympics and is willing to meet with Kim Jong Un or his sister. However, Suga did not disclose whether he would invite any of them.
Experts say the wide-scale border closure has further shocked the North Korean economy. Decades of mismanagement, aggressive military spending, and US-led sanctions on its nuclear weapons program have all caused the North Korean economy to collapse.
The economic setback made Kim Jong Il’s ambitious diplomacy with former President Donald Trump uncommented. Donald Trump was derailed by differences in the exchange of sanctions release and North Korea’s nuclear disarmament steps.
In his recent political speech, Kim Jong Il promised that he would strengthen nuclear deterrence in the face of pressure led by the United States. His administration has so far rejected the Biden administration’s proposal for talks, demanding that Washington first abandon its “hostile” policy.
North Korea launched two short-range missiles on the East Coast last month, ending a one-year pause in ballistic testing activities and continuing the tradition of testing the new US government with weapons demonstrations designed to measure Washington’s response and win concessions. .
Associated Press writers, Kim Hyunjin in Seoul and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.