North Korea on Tuesday withdrew from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games because of coronavirus fears, becoming the first country to formally exit the event.
The decision was taken during a North Korean Olympic committee session in Pyongyang last month, Japan’s Kyodo News quoted a website run by North Korea’s Sports Ministry as saying.
In March 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said North Korea would “definitely” participate the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
The pandemic forced the 2020 games to be postponed for a year. The multi-sport event is now scheduled from July 23 until Aug. 8, without overseas spectators.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed regret over the decision, saying that it “hoped the Tokyo Olympics could be a chance to promote inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation as well as peace on the Korean Peninsula.”