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North Korea blames 'hostile forces,' pandemic for skipping Beijing Olympics

North Korea’s Olympic Committee sent a letter declaring support for the games and regret for being unable to attend to its Chinese counterparts

City Center of Pyeongyang, capital of North Korea
City Center of Pyeongyang, capital of North Korea | Shutterstock

January 10, 2022 11:28pm

Updated: January 11, 2022 8:57pm

North Korean state media announced on Friday the country would not be attending the upcoming Winter Olympics hosted by its ally Beijing, citing the pandemic, and it accused the United States and its Western allies of trying to sabotage the event.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee and Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports sent a letter declaring support for the games and regret for being unable to attend to its Chinese counterparts and the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, the state-run KCNA news agency reported.

"We could not take part in the Olympics due to the hostile forces' moves and the worldwide pandemic, but we would fully support the Chinese comrades in all their work to hold splendid and wonderful Olympic festival," the letter said.

The declaration is redundant, as North Korea was suspended from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until the end of 2022 for declining to send a team to the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games last year. North Korea cited COVID-19 concerns then as well.

The KCNA did not elaborate on who the “hostile forces” were, but analysts say it likely refers to the IOC or the U.S., France and Britain, who it blames for its IOC suspension.

President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics last month, announcing only U.S. athletes will travel to compete. Several of its allies, including Britain, Australia and Canada, have joined its commitment to bar government officials from attending.

"The U.S. and its vassal forces are getting evermore undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics," the North Korean letter said.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson responded publicly later on Friday, saying Beijing understands the North Korean stance and thanking it for its support for the games and as an ally.

The letter comes as a blow to those South Koreans and others who support reunification with the north, who saw the Beijing Olympics as an opportunity for reconciliation. Athletes from the two countries marched together in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, which were hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea.