North Korea withdraws from Tokyo Olympics

North Korea says it will not send athletes to the Tokyo Olympics due to the pandemic.

It broke the news in a post published on its sports ministry's website.

The post says the DPRK Olympic Committee "discussed the suggestions of its members" on March 25. They "decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by COVID-19."

The Summer Games are scheduled to kick off July 23.

North Korea claims it has had no confirmed coronavirus infections.

Pyongyang has severely restricted movement of people between the North and its two neighbors, China and Russia, by closing its borders in response to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Japan's minister for the Games, Marukawa Tamayo, says she is still confirming details about North Korea's announcement and cannot comment.

South Korea's Unification Ministry expressed regret about the North's withdrawal. It had hoped the Tokyo Games would help foster peace and lead to reconciliation between the two Koreas.

President Moon Jae-in had hoped the Games would be an opportunity for dialogue between North Korea and other countries.