North Korea breaks silence on coronavirus crisis in URGENT call for ‘effective leadership’

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The country’s ambassador to the UN, Kim Song, urged “effective leadership” while promoting the alleged success of North Korea’s own response to the virus. Throughout the pandemic, North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of COVID-19.

There has been activity to control suspected outbreaks, however. In July, the North’s leader Kim Jong-un ordered the city of Kaesong to be locked down after someone was found to have symptoms.

The country later told the World Health Organisation the test results were indeterminate, according to The Telegraph.

In any case, Ambassador Kim said in a live statement to the UN General Assembly this week: “The anti-epidemic situation in our country is now under safe and stable control.

“A series of state measures are now being taken to block the virus inflow into the country, and all people adhere strictly to anti-epidemic regulations while maintaining the highest alert.”

He also warned North Korean authorities would not “tolerate even the smallest bit of slackness or concession”.

It is not the first time a North Korean official has praised the country’s response to the global outbreak.

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Mr Kim himself described the North’s pandemic efforts as a “shining success” back in July this year.

According to a state news agency KCNA, Mr Kim added lifting the measures too quickly would “result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis”.

North Korea was quick to lock down its borders when news of the coronavirus outbreak first emerged around the start of the year.

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It declared a “national emergency”, banned foreign tourism, and suspended trains and flights from Russia and China.

The North also enforced stricter controls on goods entering the country.

The BBC reports the North’s move to restrict trade with China would likely have a severe economic impact – China accounts for almost all of North Korea’s foreign trade.

In addition, Kimberly Brown from the British Red Cross told the broadcaster the North’s ability to deal with a public health crisis “is extremely low”.

She had visited the secretive state in 2019, and added personal protective gear and test kits would be urgently needed.

It is widely reported that experts have cast doubt over claims the North has zero coronavirus cases.

W. Courtland Robinson, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Centre for Humanitarian Health, told ABC news in April: “Even with an effective prompt response, given the proximity to China and the ease with which the virus spreads, it seems more likely that North Korea has had at least some cases.”

Also at North Korea’s UN speech this week, Ambassador Kim acknowledged other issues facing North Korea.

Possible referring to economic sanctions, he said, according to Reuters: “It is a matter of fact that we badly need an external environment favourable for economic construction.

“But, we cannot sell off our dignity just in a hope for brilliant transformation – the dignity which we have defended as valuable as our own life. This is our steadfast position.”

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