North Korea said on Friday it had decided not to participate in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing, accusing the United States of attempts to prevent “the successful opening of the Winter Games”.
Pyongyang also said the global spread of COVID-19 motivated it to skip the sporting event. He did not send a team to the Tokyo Games last summer, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was communicated to China in a letter from the North Korean National Olympic Committee and Sports Ministry, state media said.
Officials wearing protective gear work at Beijing Capital International Airport on January 4, 2022, amid concerns over the novel coronavirus ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics which begin next month. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
Preparations for the Beijing Olympics, which will open on Feb. 4, are proceeding “satisfactorily thanks to the positive efforts” of the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the state-run Central Korea news agency said.
“However, the United States and its vassal forces are increasingly disguised in their actions against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” KCNA said.
North Korea has rejected “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 news agency quoted the organizations as saying. from the country.
But Pyongyang also pledged to work with China for the success of the Beijing Games, according to KCNA.
Later on Friday, China expressed understanding for North Korea’s move, saying the two countries remain close neighbors and maintain their traditional friendly relations.
“China is willing to continue strengthening exchanges and cooperation” with North Korea “in various fields, including sports,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
North Korea used the Winter Olympics four years ago to improve relations with South Korea. Reaching an olive branch to the South, leader Kim Jong Un said in his 2018 New Year’s speech that Pyongyang would participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics hosted by the South in February of the same year.
Her younger sister and close associate, Kim Yo Jong, was part of a high-ranking North Korean delegation to the Olympics, becoming the first immediate family member of her grandfather and the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, to set foot in South Korea. .
This time, the United States and other countries such as Britain and Australia announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, with criticism mounting over alleged human rights violations by the China.
In September, the International Olympic Committee banned North Korea from participating in the 2022 Olympics, saying the country had failed to meet its obligation to send athletes to the Tokyo Games.
Nevertheless, the organization had opened the door for North Korean athletes to join the Beijing Olympics.
Foreign affairs experts said North Korea would be keen to seize the Beijing Olympics as an opportunity to interact with political leaders in other countries, but it may have given up as some democratic countries will stage a boycott. diplomatic.
North Korea has reduced ground traffic to and from its neighbors – China and Russia – since early 2020 to curb the import of the coronavirus, first detected in the central city of Wuhan, China, end of 2019.
Pyongyang has shown few signs that it plans to fully reopen the border anytime soon as the highly contagious variant of Omicron spreads across the world, experts said.
The country’s population is believed to be particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases primarily due to chronic shortages of food and medical supplies triggered by economic sanctions designed to thwart its nuclear and ballistic ambitions.
North Korea banned the entry of foreigners during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003 and during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.