North Korea does not plan to take part in this year's Tokyo Olympic Games because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a media report.
Pyongyang's Olympic Committee made the decision on March 25, according to the website Sport in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which reports on sports in North Korea, according to DPA news.
The committee reportedly said the decision was to "protect our athletes from the global health crisis" caused by the coronavirus.
There was no official confirmation from the North Korea authorities. There was also no immediate reaction from the Japanese Olympic organizing committee in Tokyo.
North Korea is one of the few countries that has not yet reported a single coronavirus case, but observers assume that the virus is present there. The Tokyo Olympics are due to start on July 23.
South Korea bids for 2032 Olympics
The news of North Korea withdrawing from Tokyo Olympics comes soon after the North said on Thursday it has submitted a joint bid with the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games.
In late 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un had, during a summit, agreed to work towards a joint Olympic bid, but soon relations between the countries soured and it was felt the joint bid would not see the light of the day.
However, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reportedly keen on awarding the quadrennial sporting spectacle to the Australian city of Brisbane, Seoul's Metropolitan Government stepped in and notified the IOC about its joint bid with Pyongyang.
Brisbane preferred host for 2032
"The IOC selected Australia's Brisbane as the preferred host for the 2032 Summer Olympics in a surprise move announced on Feb 25. The South Korean Government and the Seoul city immediately expressed regrets at the decision and held consultations with the IOC, leading to the presentation of the co-hosting proposal," said South Korea's news agency Yonhap, quoting a statement.
While the two countries, who share a bloody past, did come together on the sporting arena as recently as the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, where a unified North and South Korean team took part in the women's ice hockey tournament, the countries have otherwise failed to bury their differences.
IOC chief Thomas Bach too visited North Korea to bring the two countries together on the sporting arena but relations between neighbours soured again in 2019. Over the last couple of years, joint bids for the 2030 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup have also been discussed but nothing concrete has come out of discussions.
Xinhua news agency also reported that Seoul on Thursday sent a joint bid proposal to the IOC to co-host the 2032 Olympics with Pyongyang. "Seoul's metropolitan government said in a statement that it submitted the proposal to the future host commission of the IOC after having been in 'continuous dialogue' with the IOC since January 2020," it said.