DPRK to Skip Second Olympics Games Due to ‘Hostile Forces,’ COVID-19 Pandemic
© Sputnik / Ilya PitalevNorth Korea celebrates 60th anniversary of Korean War's end
© Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev/
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) won’t send any athletes to the Winter Olympics next month in nearby Beijing. It’s the second world games the East Asian state has decided to sit out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We could not take part in the Olympics due to the hostile forces' moves and the worldwide pandemic, but we would fully support the Chinese comrades in all their work to hold splendid and wonderful Olympic festival," read a letter by the North Korean Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports to the Chinese Olympic Committee printed by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Friday.
However, the International Olympic Committee previously suspended the DPRK from the Winter Games as punishment for its refusal to join the Summer Games in Tokyo. At those games, foreign ticket-holders were barred from attending the games due to a strong COVID-19 outbreak in Japan at the time.
The last time North Korean athletes competed in Olympic games was in the February 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the two Koreas competed under a single flag in what was the beginning of a major rapprochement between the two rivals.
In China, too, extensive lockdown procedures are being used to limit the spread of COVID-19 to a few dozen cases per day. The huge city of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province with 13 million people, has been under lockdown for two weeks, with officials systematically testing each resident for the virus and warehouses running a huge logistical operation to supply those locked down with food and other necessities.
The DPRK has maintained a nearly absolute quarantine of the country since the outbreak began and has officially claimed almost no COVID-19 cases.
However, Pyongyang says it still supports the games and criticized the US’ diplomatic boycott of them, which is motivated by the political rivalry between the US and China.
"The DPRK Olympic Committee and the DPRK Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports resolutely reject those moves, branding them as an insult to the spirit of the international Olympic Charter and as a base act of attempting to disgrace the international image of China," the statement added.
Tensions between the DPRK on the one hand, and South Korea and the US on the other, remain high as the Biden administration has so far refused to meet with DPRK leaders on equal terms for peace talks.
Although some statements about a willingness to meet without preconditions have come out of Washington, Pyongyang has so far rejected them as not serious. US President Joe Biden has previously said he would not meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un without a pledge from him to dismantle his nuclear weapons program first. Kim says the weapons are necessary to guarantee North Korean security in the absence of a permanent peace treaty. South Korea and the US have been at war with the DPRK since 1950, although a ceasefire was reached in 1953.
The Beijing games are set to begin on February 4.