North Korea will not be sending any athletes to the reorganised 2020 Olympics in Tokyo over coronavirus fears.
The country has been represented at every summer games since 1992 in Barcelona and picked up seven medals in 2016, including golds in weightlifting and gymnastics.
North Korea formed part of a unified Korea team at the women’s ice hockey at the winter games in Pyeongchang.
A statement on the Sports in the DPR Korea website said a meeting was held in Pyongyang on March 25 to discuss the matter.
It said: “In the meeting the DPRK Olympic Committee discussed the suggestions of its members and decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by Covid-19.”
Japan’s Olympic Committee said on Tuesday that North Korea has not yet notified it that it wouldn’t participate in the Tokyo Games.
Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said the government hopes many countries will join the Olympics and he promised ample anti-virus measures.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed regret over the North’s decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
At the Pyeongchang Games, the North and South Korean athletes jointly marched under a blue map symbolising a unified Korean Peninsula, while the red-clad North Korean cheerleaders captivated global attention.