North Korea emergency: Worrying reason Kim has admitted coronavirus outbreak exposed

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North Korea has reported what the communist nation describes as the country’s first suspected case of COVID-19. Up until last week, the East Asian state said they had no confirmed cases of COVID-19, which has infected millions across the globe. But, now the secretive state has reported a suspected case of the potentially deadly virus.

In response, leader Kim Jong-un held an emergency meeting with top officials.

The state also imposed a lockdown in the border city of Kaesong.

But, experts have questioned why North Korea has suddenly only just reported its first suspected case of COVID-19, months after the World Health Organisation declared the disease a pandemic.

One analyst, Patricia Kim of the United States Institute of Peace, said: “Pyongyang’s intentions in finally having admitted to the arrival of COVID-19 are not entirely clear and there may be multiple motivating factors.”

She added that North Korea’s suspicions of the suspected case could not be verified, but said it is “notable that Pyongyang chose to publicise this particular case and declare a state of emergency.”

And, more worryingly, Patricia Kim told RFA’s Korean Service: “Pyongyang may be using the declaration of a state of emergency to rally citizens and to demonstrate the Kim regime’s efforts to control the virus.

“And it may also be signalling to the international community for assistance.”

It comes after North Korea reported its first suspected case of coronavirus over the weekend.

The state’s KCNA news agency said: “An emergency event happened in Kaesong city where a runaway who went to the south three years ago – a person who is suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus – returned on 19 July after illegally crossing the demarcation line.”

At Saturday’s politburo meeting, Kim is thought to have ordered a “maximum emergency system” to contain the virus.

He also warned those responsible for assisting illegal border crossings would receive “a severe punishment”.

State media noted there was now a “dangerous situation that may lead to a deadly and destructive disaster”.

Meanwhile, Kaesong City, which borders the South, was put under strict quarantine.

On Sunday, a South Korean military official suggested an individual illegally crossed into the North and that an investigation had been launched, according to Yonhap news agency.

The border, or demilitarized zone, is under constant heavy surveillance.

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It is unclear if the person who returned to North Korea had coronavirus.

Earlier this month, the North Korean leader, Kim, said the country had a “shining success” in dealing with COVID-19.

The country, which borders China, was quick to lock its borders and put thousands in isolation around six months ago, following the outbreak in Wuhan.

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