North Korea on Friday said it would skip next month’s Beijing Olympics because of the COVID-19 pandemic and "hostile forces' moves," a largely redundant statement since the country has already been banned from the Games by the IOC. In September, the International Olympic Committee suspended North Korea through 2022 for refusing to send a team to the Tokyo Summer Games, citing the pandemic. IOC President Thomas Bach said at the time that individual athletes from North Korea who qualify to compete in Beijing could still be accepted. There is no word of that happening.
On Friday, North Korea’s state media said its Olympic committee and sports ministry sent a letter to their Chinese counterparts to formally notify its last major ally and economic pipeline that it cannot attend the Olympics, the AP reports. The Games open on Feb. 4. "We could not take part in the Olympics due to the hostile forces’ moves and the worldwide pandemic,” the letter said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. "We would fully support the Chinese comrades in all their work to hold splendid and wonderful Olympic festival." The KCNA dispatch didn’t elaborate on what the hostile forces are. But Cheong Seong-Chang, analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said they likely refer to the IOC, or the US, France, and Britain, the countries Pyongyang blames for the suspension.
Later Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing fully understands the North Korean stance. "Throughout China’s preparation for the Beijing Games, the DPRK has been providing us positive support," Wang said. The North Korean letter also accused the United States and its allies of trying to hamper the successful hosting of the Games. "The US and its vassal forces are getting more undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics," the letter said in an apparent reference to the US-led diplomatic boycott of the Games to protest China's human rights abuses.
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