Easing after 'amazing miracle'?
Why there will be no corona turnaround à la China in North Korea
Created: 01/05/2023 13:18
By: Sven Hauberg
North Korea is said to have left the corona pandemic behind.
However, an opening like the one China has now made seems unlikely.
Munich – For the people of North Korea, the new year began with martial images.
State television in the closed country showed footage of dictator Kim Jong-un in a weapons factory on Sunday, walking down long rows of around two dozen Hwasong-12 rockets.
The medium-range ballistic missiles, which were last tested in October, have an estimated range of up to 6,000 kilometers and, according to experts, can also transport nuclear warheads.
Kim didn't come to the factory alone, which analysts from the
NK News portal said
according to is on the western outskirts of the capital Pyongyang: At his side was his daughter, who first appeared in public in November.
The name of the young woman and how old she is is not known – like so much of what is currently happening in North Korea.
The Kim dictatorship has always been isolated.
During the corona pandemic, however, the country pulled up the last drawbridges.
The border with China was also closed to keep the virus away from North Korea.
That seems to have worked for more than two years;
at least officially, Pyongyang did not report a single corona case.
In mid-May 2022, however, that changed abruptly when North Korea's state media suddenly admitted that millions of people in the country were suffering from "fever", including ruler Kim.
Apparently there have not been any mass deaths.
Kim Jong-un announces a Corona miracle in North Korea - but the doubts are great
A few weeks later, the spook was supposedly over.
The regime declared that the corona virus had been defeated, the government spoke of an "amazing miracle".
The Korea expert Ramon Pacheco Pardo from London's King's College, on the other hand, believes that the virus is still spreading in the country, but that a large part of the population is already infected.
That's one of the reasons why the border with China has been opened up a bit again, Pardo told
IPPEN.MEDIA's Munich Merkur
"I assume that North Korea will carefully lift the restrictions for travelers and also for diplomats who may want to return to the country." What is particularly important for the country is a reasonably unhindered border traffic with China - the big neighbor was before the pandemic responsible for 95 percent of North Korea's foreign trade.
North Korea's ruler Kim Jong-un is celebrated by his people.
© afp/kcna via kns
However, Kim Jong-un is unlikely to make a 180-degree turnaround, as China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping recently ordered his country to do.
In China, millions of people are currently infected every day, and forecasts predict hundreds of thousands of deaths.
That is likely to have startled the leadership in Pyongyang, which still wants to prevent the pandemic from flaring up again with lockdowns and other corona measures.
Especially since the North Korean health system is considered extremely underdeveloped, many of the 25 million inhabitants are malnourished and the vaccination rate is probably low.
However, the Kim regime always rejected Western and Chinese vaccine offers, and an offer from the COVAX initiative was also rejected.
North Korea is said to have only started mass vaccinations in its border areas in September 2022.
At least that's what the South Korean secret service reported, which also claimed that the pandemic in the north of the Korean peninsula was anything but defeated.
It is likely that vaccines from China will be used, but there is no reliable information.
According to experts, deliveries from Russia are also possible.
Kim Jong-un wants to "exponentially" increase North Korea's nuclear arsenal
China's coronavirus reversal was also believed to have been fueled by protests that erupted in dozens of cities across the country in late November.
North Korea's Kim need not fear such demonstrations - his regime governs with an iron fist, uprisings are virtually impossible.
To keep it that way, Kim continues to knit the legend that his country is being threatened by the US and South Korea and that only his regime can protect the citizens of North Korea.
In this way he secures the allegiance of his people.
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Both countries, South Korea and the United States, wanted to put North Korea under maximum military pressure, Kim claimed once again last weekend, at the end of his ruling party's annual convention.
In order to defend itself against the "undisputed enemy" South Korea, North Korea's nuclear arsenal would have to be increased "exponentially" and more ICBMs would have to be developed for "a rapid nuclear counter-strike".
Apparently, Kim is currently not satisfied with the military development in his country: According to state media, Kim also fired the country's second-highest military officer, Pak Jong-chon, at the weekend.
The number one in North Korea's military is Kim himself.
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Will Kim Jong Un Test Nuclear Weapons Again?
It is unclear whether North Korea is currently facing another nuclear weapons test - it would be the first such test since 2017. "On the one hand, North Korea has declared itself a 'responsible' nuclear power and actually does not need any new tests to send out a message," says Korea- Expert Ramon Pacheco Pardo.
“On the other hand, each new test would help improve Pyongyang's technological capabilities.
Ultimately, it will be a political decision for Kim whether or not to conduct a new test.” Over the past year, North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of short-, medium- and long-range missiles, including ballistic missiles, which the country has been mandated by UN resolutions actually forbidden.
In view of the threats from the north, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol wants to work more closely with Washington and integrate his country more closely into the US nuclear deterrent system.
To this end, talks are being held with the US government about joint planning and exercises regarding nuclear capabilities, Yoon said in a newspaper interview on Monday.
However, there are apparently no concrete agreements yet, as US President Joe Biden explained in response to Yoon's statements.
Either way, Pardo believes that joint exercises by South Korea and the United States are unlikely to deter the Kim regime from further armament.
"As long as there is no clear will to sit down and negotiate, especially on the part of the Kim regime, the current situation on the Korean peninsula will not change much."