SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Friday announced it would skip next month’s Beijing Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “hostile forces measures,” a largely redundant statement since the country has already been banned from the Games by the IOC.
In September, the International Olympic Committee suspended North Korea until 2022 for refusing to send a team to the Tokyo Summer Games, citing the pandemic. IOC President Thomas Bach said at the time that individual athletes from North Korea who qualify to compete in Beijing could still be accepted. There is no word of what is going on.
North Korea’s state media on Friday said its Olympic committee and sports ministry sent a letter to their Chinese counterparts formally informing its latest great ally and economic pipeline that it cannot attend the Olympics. The Games open on February 4.
“We were unable to participate in the Olympics due to movements of hostile forces and the global pandemic,” the letter said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. “We will fully support the Chinese comrades in all their work to organize a splendid and wonderful Olympic festival.”
The KCNA dispatch did not specify what hostile forces are. But Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said they were probably referring to the IOC, or the United States, France and Britain, which Korea says of the North, are at the origin of the suspension of the IOC.
Later Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing fully understands the North Korean position.
“Throughout China’s preparation for the Beijing Games, the DPRK has given us positive support. The DPRK reaffirmed its support and solidarity with China by hosting a big Olympic Games on January 5, and we appreciate it, ”Wang said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.
Despite the IOC’s decision, there was still hope in Seoul and elsewhere that the Games could serve as a place of reconciliation between rival Koreas with the support of the IOC. At the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, athletes from rival countries marched together in the opening ceremony and fielded a single women’s hockey team.
Such hopes were dashed last week when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to strengthen his military and maintain strict restrictions on viruses, but did not disclose any new policies towards Washington and Seoul during the meeting. a key political conference. North Korea on Wednesday conducted what it called a hypersonic missile test in its first weapons test in two months.
“There is no reason for Kim Jong Un to participate in the Beijing Olympics and the pressure from South Korea for a political declaration ending the Korean War on the occasion of the Olympics has fizzled out.” , Cheong said.
North Korea has maintained one of the world’s toughest restrictions to guard against COVID-19, including two years of border closures. The country has ignored major international sporting events, including the Olympic preliminaries, since the start of the pandemic.
The North Korean letter also accused the United States and its allies of trying to hinder the successful staging of the Games.
“The United States and its vassal forces are increasingly disguised in their actions against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” the letter said. “(North Korea) resolutely rejects these measures, calling them an insult to the spirit of the International Olympic Charter and a despicable act aimed at dishonoring China’s international image.”
The letter likely refers to a diplomatic boycott of the Games, led by the United States, to protest China’s record on human rights. As part of the boycott, the athletes will participate in the Games but no official delegation will be sent to Beijing. China called the US action an “outright political provocation.”
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