SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea announced Tuesday it will boycott the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics if it is not allowed to co-host the games, a proposal the International Olympic Committee and South Korea already have rejected.
But the Soviet Union struck a blow to North Korea's attempt to lead a communist-bloc boycott when it announced Monday it would participate in the Seoul Games, ending tit-for-tat boycotts begun by the United States in 1980 at the Moscow Games.
South Korea and the IOC have been negotiating with North Korea for three years on sharing several of the events in an effort to diminish the threat of a boycott. Sunday is the deadline for replying to invitations to participate in the Sept. 17-Oct. 2 Games.
'We will not participate in the Olympic Games to be singly hosted by South Korea,' the North Korean National Olympic Committee said in a statement carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency and monitored in Tokyo.
The North Korean statement blamed the failure to reach agreement on co-hosting the Games on the 'continuation of military rule in South Korea' -- a reference to the Dec. 16 presidential election won by ruling party candidate Roh Tae-woo.
'We can reconsider our stand on the Olympic Games if an agreement is reached on co-hosting the Games with South Korea in future negotiations,' it said.
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch has said the current offer for North Korea to hold five events -- archery, table tennis, women's volleyball, a cycling event and a soccer preliminary group -- is final.
The IOC and South Korea have rejected the co-hosting idea because the Olympic charter stipulates the Games are awarded to a particular city, not a country.
The Korean peninsula was divided by the Soviet Union and the United States at the end of World War II. The division of Korea into two belligerent nations was cemented in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to unify the nation under communist rule.
The Korean War ended in a stalemate in July 1953 with the border remaining roughly along the pre-war dividing line -- the 38th parallel. A military armistice was signed to end hostilities, but no peace treaty has ever been signed by the two nations.
There was no official comment from South Korea on the North Korean statement.
'We have not received any communication from North Korea,' said IOC spokesman Michele Verdier in Switzerland. 'We have no comment and in any case we will wait for the midnight (Sunday) deadline for replies.'
The Soviet National Olympic Committee decided Monday to accept an IOC invitation to participate in the Seoul Games, the official Tass news agency said. Five other Eastern bloc nations have entered the Games, and China is expected to follow suit by Sunday's deadline. Cuba said Tuesday it will wait until Sunday's deadline before announcing whether it will attend the Seoul Olympics, the Mexican government news agency reported from Havana.
Moscow's decision brought to 153 the number of confirmed entries in the Seoul Games, the largest in Olympic history. The record for biggest turnout was set in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, with 140 nations taking part.
The Soviet decision guarantees the first meeting between U.S. and Soviet athletes in the Games since the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
The United States led a Western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union spearheaded a communist boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, citing security considerations.
The Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee welcomed the Soviet move, saying it was 'confident that with the Soviet decision the Seoul Games will become a real festival fo the global community with the largest participation in history and bringing about East-West harmony.'