North Korea will not be taking part in the Tokyo Olympics in July this year because of coronavirus
A website run by the North's Sports Ministry said its national Olympic Committee had decided not to participate in the Games to protect its athletes from the Covid-19 pandemic.
This will be the first time North Korea has missed a Summer Olympics since it boycotted Seoul in 1988.
It's a blow to South Korea's hopes of using the Games to engage with the North as the sporting event this summer had been considered one of the last-remaining chances to kickstart the stalled cross border talks before the end of President Moon Jae-in's term next year.
When South Korea hosted the Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018, the North Korean leader sent his sister, Kim Yo-jong, to head his delegation and athletes from the two Koreas entered a joint team which led to the initiation of diplomacy with South Korea and the U.S., including a series of historic summits.
Just last month, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had also mentioned the possibility of Pyeongyang, Tokyo talks if Kim Yo-jong visits Japan for the Games.
Pyeongyang's withdrawal from the Summer Games is also a setback for plans agreed by President Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a 2018 summit to pursue a joint Korea bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games.
Responding to the North's decision, Seoul's Unification Ministry, in charge of inter-Korean affairs, expressed regret saying it had hoped that the Olympics would provide an opportunity to "foster peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas."
Tokyo Olympics organizers said they were aware of news reports on North Korea's decision and would work with other countries for the success of the Games.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.