International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced on March 31 after a meeting with the Kim Jong Un that North Korea will compete in the next two Olympic games.
Making the announcement at a Beijing airport, Bach said that “the IOC will make a proposal for a potential joint march” between North and South Korean athletes at the 2020 summer games in Tokyo and 2022 winter games in Beijing. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, athletes from the two countries marched together under the Korean Unification Flag and formed a united women’s ice hockey team.
North Korea started participating in the Olympics in 1964. Since then, it has participated in nine of the last 16 winter games and almost all summer games, boycotting only the 1984 Los Angeles games and 1988 Seoul games.
Although North Korea attended the 1972 and 1988 winter games in Japan, the decision to attend the 2020 Tokyo games comes at time of tension between the two countries. In September 2017, North Korea launched a missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. North Korea also launched an ICBM into the Sea of Japan in November 2017, further escalating tensions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned both tests.
However, in the wake of the news that North Korea will be participating at the 2020 summer games in Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono sees it as an issue separate from past missile activities, saying that “as long as North Korea can participate without breaking International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules, UN Security Council resolutions, and Japanese laws, then its athletes should be welcomed as a token of peace.”