Seoul, South Korea –

North Korea announced on Friday that it would skip the Beijing Olympics next month due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “hostile forces measures,” a largely redundant statement since the country has already been banned from the Games by the IOC.

In September, the International Olympic Committee suspended North Korea until 2022 for refusing to send a team to the Tokyo Summer Games, citing the pandemic. IOC President Thomas Bach said at the time that individual athletes from North Korea who qualified to compete in Beijing could still be accepted. There is no word of what is going on.

North Korea’s state media on Friday said its Olympic Committee and Sports Ministry sent a letter to their Chinese counterparts formally informing its latest great ally and economic pipeline that it cannot attend the Olympics. The Games open on February 4.

“We were unable to participate in the Olympics due to movements of hostile forces and the global pandemic,” the letter said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

The KCNA dispatch did not specify what hostile forces are. But Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Private Institute in South Korea, said they were probably referring to the IOC, or the United States, France and Britain, which Korea says of the North, are at the origin of the suspension of the IOC.

Despite the IOC’s decision, there was still hope in Seoul and elsewhere that the Games could serve as a place of reconciliation between rival Koreas with the support of the IOC. At the 2018 Winter Games held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, athletes from rival countries marched together in the opening ceremony and fielded a single women’s ice hockey team.

Such hopes were dashed last week when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to strengthen his military and maintain strict restrictions on viruses, but did not disclose any new policies towards Washington and Seoul during the campaign. a key political conference. North Korea on Wednesday conducted what it called a hypersonic missile test in its first weapons test in two months.

“There is no reason for Kim Jong Un to participate in the Beijing Olympics and the pressure from South Korea for a political declaration ending the Korean War on the occasion of the Olympics has fizzled out.” , Cheong said.

North Korea has maintained one of the world’s toughest restrictions to guard against COVID-19, including two years of border closures. The country has ignored major international sporting events, including the Olympic preliminaries, since the start of the pandemic.

The North Korean letter also accused the United States and its allies of trying to hinder the successful staging of the Games.

“The United States and its vassal forces are increasingly disguised in their actions against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” the letter said. “(North Korea) resolutely rejects these measures, calling them an insult to the spirit of the International Olympic Charter and a despicable act aimed at dishonoring China’s international image.”

The letter likely refers to a US-led diplomatic boycott of the Games to protest China’s human rights record. As part of the boycott, the athletes will participate in the Games but no official delegation will be sent to Beijing. China called the US action an “outright political provocation.”