Tokyo Olympics: North Korea pulls out of Games citing coronavirus fears

However, Japan's Olympic Committee said North Korea had not yet notified it that it wouldn't participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea will not attend the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.   -  GETTY IMAGES

North Korea’s sports ministry said on Tuesday that it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics this year to protect its athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea's Unification Ministry expressed regret over the decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations.

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Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters she couldn’t immediately comment on the matter. Japan's Olympic Committee said North Korea had not yet notified it that it wouldn't participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member all-female cheering group.

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At the Pyeongchang Games, the North and South Korean athletes jointly marched under a blue map symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula. The Koreas also fielded their first combined Olympic team in women’s ice hockey, which drew passionate support from crowds despite losing all five of its games with a combined score of 28-2.