DUBAI (Reuters) - South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha cast doubt on Saturday over North Korea’s claim that it has no coronavirus cases, while offering the South’s help in combating the pandemic.
In an unusually clear official statement, Kang told the annual IISS Manama Dialogue security conference that Pyongyang has not been very responsive to Seoul’s offer to help.
“They still say they don’t have any cases, which is hard to believe,” Kang said. “All signs are that the regime is very intensely focused on controlling the disease that they say they don’t have, so it’s a bit of an odd situation.”
In its most recent weekly report to the World Health Organization, North Korea said it had no confirmed cases of coronavirus, although it cited 8,594 “suspected cases.”
The pandemic has further isolated North Korea, which has turned toward more top-down decision making where little is discussed on the country’s measures to tackle COVID-19, Kang said.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said this week the country has imposed “top-class emergency measures” to prevent the coronavirus that cause COVID-19 from making inroads in the country, making stringent anti-virus efforts.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has said an outbreak in the North cannot be ruled out as the country had trade and people-to-people exchanges with China - where the disease emerged a year ago - before shutting the border in late January.
Analysts said an outbreak could be devastating for the economically and politically isolated country.
Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Writing by Sangmi Cha; Editing by William Mallard
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