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SEOUL: North Korea will not attend this year's Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pyongyang's sports ministry said, dashing Seoul's hopes of using the Games to restart talks with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

The isolated North's participation in the last Winter Games, hosted by the South in Pyeongchang, was a catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.

Leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong attended as his envoy in a blaze of publicity, and the South's President Moon Jae-in seized the opportunity to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington that led to a series of high-profile meetings between Kim and then US president Donald Trump.

But Pyongyang's announcement extinguishes the possibility that the postponed Tokyo Games, due to begin in July, could kick off a reset in the now deadlocked talks process.

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