North Korea Blames 'Hostile Forces' for Skipping 2022 Olympics, Despite Ban By IOC

North Korea placed blame on moves by "hostile forces" as one of the reasons the country will not compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in a letter to Chinese officials on Friday.

However, the statement comes months after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended North Korea from the 2022 Games after the country refused to send a team to the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo. At the time, North Korea cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for not participating in the Tokyo Games,

The pandemic was also listed as a deciding factor in Friday's letter to Beijing.

In September, IOC President Thomas Bach said that individual athletes from North Korea who qualify to compete in Beijing could still be accepted to the Winter Olympics. However, there is no indication from North Korea that athletes will be allowed to compete individually in the upcoming Winter Games.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which first reported on the letter from North Korea, did not elaborate on what moves by"hostile forces" might mean. However, Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said they likely refer to the IOC, or the U.S., France and Britain, which North Korea believes is behind the IOC suspension.

North Korea's state media said Friday their Chinese counterparts were sent the letter to formally notify them that North Korea cannot attend the Olympics. China is North Korea's only remaining major ally and also its economic pipeline.

"Throughout China's preparation for the Beijing Games, [North Korea] has been providing us positive support," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a press conference.

There is still hope in Seoul and elsewhere that, despite the IOC decision, the Games can serve as a reconciliation venue between North and South Korea.

This hope for reconciliation comes with the memory of the 2018 Winter Games, which took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Athletes from the rival countries marched together in the opening ceremony, and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo-jong attended the Games to support the country's athletes.

Olympic Rings
The Olympic Rings are seen inside one of the Athletes Villages for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics before the area was closed on January 3, 2022 in Chongli county, Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, northern China. The area, which will host ski and snowboard events during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics was closed off to all tourists and visitors as of January 4, 2022 and will be part of the bubble due to the global coronavirus pandemic for athletes, journalists and officials taking part in the games. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are set to open February 4th. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Such hopes were set back last week when Kim Jong Un vowed to bolster his armed forces and retain the strict virus restrictions but didn't disclose any new policies toward Washington and Seoul during a key political conference. On Wednesday, North Korea 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 take part in the Beijing Olympics and South Korea's push for a political declaration to end the Korean War on the occasion of the Olympics has fizzed," Cheong said.

North Korea has maintained one of the world's toughest restrictions to guard against COVID-19, including two years of border shutdowns. The country has been skipping major international sports events, including Olympic preliminary events, since the pandemic began.

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

"The U.S. and its vassal forces are getting more undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics," the letter said. "(North Korea) resolutely rejects those moves, branding them as an insult to the spirit of the international Olympic Charter and as a base act of attempting to disgrace the international image of China."

The letter likely refers to a diplomatic boycott of the Games, led by the United States, to protest China's human rights records. Under the boycott, athletes will compete in the Games, but no official delegations will be sent to Beijing. China has called the U.S. action an "outright political provocation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.