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IOC hasn't heard from N. Korea on skipping Tokyo Olympics: spokesperson

North Korean flag (Reuters-Yonhap)
North Korean flag (Reuters-Yonhap)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Tuesday it hasn't received an official word from North Korea regarding the latter's decision not to participate in this year's Tokyo Summer Games.

"The IOC has not received any official application from the NOC of DPRK to be released from their obligation to take part in the Olympic Games according to the Olympic Charter," an IOC spokesperson said in a statement released to Yonhap News Agency.

NOC is short for the National Olympic Committee, and DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

But the North's National Paralympic Committee has notified the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) of the decision, an IPC spokesperson said.

Earlier in the day, North Korea announced it will not send its athletes to the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympic Games in Tokyo, citing concerns over the global coronavirus pandemic.

According to a website called Sports in the DPRK Korea, the decision was reached during a general assembly meeting of the North's Olympic Committee held in Pyongyang on March 25.

The IOC spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, the NOC of the DPRK was, despite several requests of the IOC, not in a position to hold a telephone conference during which also the COVID-19 situation in North Korea should have been discussed."

The North's withdrawal from the Olympics has dealt a blow to South Korea's hopes of using the athletic competition to revive the stalled peace process with Pyongyang, and of renewing inter-Korean sports cooperation.

The two Koreas had agreed in February 2019 to form joint teams in four sports at the Tokyo Olympics, though they haven't followed up on that plan since.

As recently as 2018, the Koreas competed as one in women's hockey at the Winter Olympics held south of the border, and fielded more unified teams at the Asian Games in Indonesia. (Yonhap)