North Korea blames ‘hostile forces’ and Covid for skipping Beijing Olympics

·3-min read
A volunteer from China’s local Communist Party organisation who will be part of the support for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics  (Getty Images)
A volunteer from China’s local Communist Party organisation who will be part of the support for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics (Getty Images)

North Korea has announced it will not attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, a largely symbolic gesture as the hermit kingdom is officially barred from the Games.

North Korea blamed “hostile forces’ moves and the worldwide pandemic” for not taking part in the Olympics games, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency said, without clarifying the remarks.

China is its closest ally. Pyongyang conveyed the remarks through a hand-delivered message given by its envoy to Beijing and wished for the country to have a successful event, which begin on 4 February.

North Korea also took the opportunity to hit out at the US for “insulting” the spirit 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.

“[North Korea] resolutely rejects those moves, branding them as an insult to the spirit of the international Olympic Charter and as a base act of attempting to disgrace the international image of China.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last year decided to suspend North Korea until the end of 2022 for skipping the Tokyo Olympics, citing the pandemic.

The committee has, however, allowed individual North Korean athletes to participate in the Beijing Games.

In a response to North Korea on Friday, China said it fully understood North Korea’s stance and appreciated the support.

“Throughout China’s preparation for the Beijing Games, the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has been providing us positive support,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

“The DPRK reaffirmed its support and solidarity with China in hosting a grand Olympic Games on January 5, and we appreciate that,” he added.

There were hopes that the Games would provide the opportunity to establish contact for reconciliation between North Korea and its neighbours South Korea and Japan, with whom it has strained relationships.

The decision to not attend is, thus, a setback. In 2018, the country had sent Kim Jon Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong to the Winter Olympics hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The upcoming Games have been marred by a series of diplomatic boycotts after Washington became the first to say last month that officials would not attend the event, while leaving the door open for the country’s athletes to participate.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Other western countries, including Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Canada, followed the US soon after, citing widely reported allegations of human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

Mr Kim’s government has maintained some of the world’s toughest restrictions within the country and on its borders to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The country has claimed it has zero Covid infections and has even rejected outside aid along with offers of free vaccine doses, leaving the people susceptible to Covid once the border opens.

Additional reporting by agencies

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