04/06/2021, 10.45
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Pyongyang pulls out of Tokyo Olympics

Kim Jong-un's regime motivated the decision with the need to protect its athletes from the pandemic. It is the first country to make such a decision. South Korea and Japan hoped to use the Olympic demonstration to reopen a channel of dialogue with Kim.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - North Korean athletes will not participate in the Tokyo Summer Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government website Sports in the DPRK Korea this morning reported that the decision was made on March 25 by the National Olympic Committee.

The Games were supposed to take place last summer, but have been postponed for a year due to the global health emergency. They will open on July 23 and close on August 8; the Paralympics will instead take place from August 24 to September 5. The Japanese government has established that foreign spectators will not be able to enter the country to watch the competition.

North Korea is the first country to give up the Olympic event. The Kim Jong-un regime claims that it has not registered any cases of contagion from Covid-19.  However, since the outbreak of the pandemic crisis, the North Korean authorities have closed the land and sea borders. The blockade has also affected those with China, on which Pyongyang depends politically and economically.

Several observers note that South Korea and Japan hoped to use the Olympic event to restart dialogue with Kim, in a similar vein to events with the 2018 Winter Olympics, held in South Korean county of PyeongChang, which saw the participation of North Korean athletes. They favoured detente between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington, and fostered a series of meetings between the North Korean leader and then US President Donald Trump.

North Korea is isolated from the international community (except from China and partly from Russia), which has been subjected to international sanctions for years for its nuclear and missile program. Negotiations with Washington on nuclear power have now stalled. The country is in a very difficult situation. The pandemic and a series of summer typhoons have weakened an economy already ravaged by sanctions.

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