North Korea’s Sports Ministry has confirmed it will not take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year, saying the decision is to protect the athletes from contracting Covid-19.The announcement makes North Korea the first major country to skip the Games because of the pandemic.

The decision puts an end to South Korea’s hopes of using the Games to engage with the North amid their stalled cross-border talks.North Korea has taken stringent measures against the virus since it broke out last year.It shut off its borders in late January and later quarantined hundreds of foreigners in its capital.

There were hopes by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in that the games could be a catalyst for progress between North and South Korea.

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