EXPLAINER: Why is North Korea skipping the Tokyo Olympics?

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea, citing the coronavirus, has change into the primary nation on this planet to desert the Tokyo Olympics.

It’s true that the North is extraordinarily delicate to COVID-19, understanding {that a} generalized epidemic in a rustic with an already battered well being system might be a catastrophe.

However North Korea has additionally beforehand used main sporting occasions to arrange diplomacy with the US, geared toward securing much-needed sanctions aid in return for guarantees of nuclear disarmament. Some see the withdrawal from the Olympics because the North sending a message to Washington.

This is a take a look at the North Korean transfer and what it might imply.



A state-run web site stated on Tuesday that the North Korean Olympic Committee had determined to not take part within the Tokyo Video games that are set to start in July “to guard gamers from the worldwide public well being disaster attributable to COVID- 19 ”.

North Korea has beforehand boycotted the Olympics and different worldwide sporting occasions for political causes or failed to look when none of its athletes or groups have certified. However that is the primary time that North Korea has withdrawn from a serious worldwide sporting occasion citing an infectious illness, in keeping with the Seoul Unification Ministry.

Pyongyang has gained a repute for withdrawing from talks with Seoul and Washington earlier than returning on the final minute to strengthen its bargaining energy. However given the nation is on excessive alert for COVID-19, consultants say it’s unlikely to reverse its determination on the Olympics.

North Korea has proven “coronavirus-related neurosis since declaring an emergency anti-virus system in January final yr,” stated Park Received Gon, professor of North Korea research at Ewha Womans College in Seoul.

Park stated it was extremely unlikely that North Korea would get sufficient vaccines for its 26 million folks or report main progress in its battle towards the virus by July.

North Korean officers know the way disastrous a serious virus outbreak can be in a rustic with a long time of crumbling public well being infrastructure. North Korea has up to now taken a few of the most draconian anti-virus measures on this planet, together with a 15-month closure of its worldwide borders and the departure of international nationals.

North Korea nonetheless claims to be formally coronavirus-free, a declare many international consultants dispute.

North Korea’s determination to skip the Olympics exhibits that it “believes contact with foreigners is probably the most harmful factor proper now,” stated Web optimization Yu-Seok of the North Korean Research Institute. in Seoul.



The North Korean announcement, three months earlier than the Video games started, might point out that Pyongyang is rejecting a repeated push by Seoul to make use of the Olympics to create an environment of dialogue. It might additionally present a willingness to step up the strain on US President Joe Biden’s new administration.

North Korea is sending the message that it desires to deal instantly with the US now moderately than utilizing the Olympics as a spot to contact Washington for talks, stated Kwak Gil Sup, director of the One Korea Middle, a North Korean enterprise web site. .

Now deadlocked nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington started in 2018 after a reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s participation within the Pyeongchang Winter Video games within the south earlier this yr .

Throughout these Olympics, Korean athletes marched collectively below one unification flag on the opening ceremony and shaped the first-ever Korean ladies’s ice hockey joint crew. Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean chief Kim Jong Un, turned the primary member of the North’s ruling household to go to South Korea because the finish of the 1950-53 Korean Struggle.

There was little progress within the nuclear negotiations over the previous two years. North Korea not too long ago fired two ballistic missiles into the ocean through the first assessments of such weapons in a yr. Kim Yo Jong warned Washington to not “trigger a stench” and referred to as the South Korean president “an America-raised parrot.”

Specialists say North Korea in the end desires talks with the Biden administration to get sanctions aid and higher ties as a result of its economic system was devastated by the pandemic, US sanctions and pure disasters final yr .

Analyst Web optimization stated North Korea is probably going uncertain of the advantages of attending the Tokyo Video games as Biden has made it clear he won’t be embarking on made-for-television summits with Kim Jong. One like his predecessor Donald Trump did.

“They knew they might come residence empty-handed from Tokyo,” Web optimization stated.

However North Korea’s home difficulties might push it to proceed talks with the US within the close to future.

Web optimization stated North Korea might perform massive weapons assessments, corresponding to an intercontinental ballistic missile launch, within the coming months if it’s not happy with the assessment of North Korea’s coverage. Biden authorities which is predicted to be accomplished quickly.

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