North Korea Bows Out of Tokyo Olympics, Citing Covid-19

North Korea said on Tuesday that it had decided not to participate in the 32nd Tokyo Summer Olympics because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision was made when the North’s national Olympic Committee met on March 25 in Pyongyang, where it decided a delegation would skip the Tokyo Olympics, to be held on July 23 to Aug. 8, “in order to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection,” the Sports in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a government-run website, said.

North Korea, which has a decrepit public health system, has taken stringent measures against the virus since early last year, including shutting its borders. The country officially maintains that it has no Covid-19 cases, but outside health experts remain skeptical.

North Korea’s decision deprives South Korea and other nations of a rare opportunity to establish official contact with the isolated country. Officials in the South had hoped that the Olympics might provide a venue for senior delegates from both Koreas to meet to discuss issues beyond sports.

attend the opening ceremony.

Mr. Kim used the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics as the signal to start diplomacy after a series of nuclear and long-range missile tests. Soon, inter-Korean dialogue followed, leading to three summit meetings between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Mr. Kim also met with President Donald J. Trump three times.

But since the collapse of Mr. Kim’s diplomacy with Mr. Trump in 2019, North Korea has shunned official contact with South Korea or the United States. The pandemic has deepened its diplomatic isolation and economic difficulties amid concerns over its nuclear ambitions. North Korea launched two ballistic missiles on March 25 in its first such test in a year, in a challenge to President Biden.

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North Korea Accuses Washington of Raising ‘a Stink’ in First Comments on Biden

SEOUL — North Korea on Tuesday denounced Washington for raising “a stink” on the Korean Peninsula by going forward with joint military exercises with South Korea, striking a confrontational tone in its first official comment on the Biden administration.

“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off a powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said in a statement carried by state-run North Korean media on Tuesday. “If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

Ms. Kim, who serves as her brother’s spokeswoman in North Korea’s relations with Seoul and Washington, dedicated most of her statement to criticizing Seoul for pushing ahead with its annual military drills with the United States this month, despite warnings from her brother.

The statement came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III touched down in Japan for their joint visit this week. Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin were scheduled to fly to South Korea on Wednesday to meet with President Moon Jae-in and other senior South Korean leaders. How to deal with North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat sits high on their agenda.

through multiple channels in recent weeks, but Pyongyang has been unresponsive, according to the White House.

In her statement, Mr. Kim accused South Korea of opting for “war in March” and “crisis in March,” instead of “warmth in March,” by starting the joint military drills, which the North has described as rehearsals for invasion.

Under former President Donald J. Trump, Washington and Seoul suspended or scaled down their joint military drills to support diplomacy with Mr. Kim. After three meetings, Mr. Trump’s talks with Mr. Kim collapsed without a deal on how to end North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities.

a party meeting in January, he declared that North Korea would build new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles and make its nuclear warheads lighter and more precise.

North Korea has also turned cool toward South Korea, ending all official dialogue with Seoul and blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office. In the party meeting in January, Mr. Kim warned that returning inter-Korean relations to a “point of peace and prosperity” depended on South Korea’s behavior.

And while Mr. Kim himself has largely refrained from personal attacks against Mr. Trump and Mr. Moon, his sister has frequently been dispatched to issue blistering statements against both Washington and Seoul.

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