(Photo: Yonhap News)
North Korea has said it will not attend the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo to protect its athletes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The North's sports ministry said on its website that the decision was made at a meeting of its Olympic committee on March 25.
"The committee decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19," it said.
North Korea last participated in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, which was a key catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement between the two Koreas and triggered denuclearization talks between the North and the U.S.
But the latest announcement puts an end to Seoul's hopes of using the postponed Tokyo Games to trigger a reset in the deadlocked talks process.
Since early last year, North Korea implemented harsh coronavirus restrictions to ward off an outbreak, including tight border controls, and has reported no cases of the coronavirus in the country.
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