North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has stated that his government will not accept foreign aid as the country faces major recovery efforts, media reported on Friday.
The statement follows the move to remove a coronavirus blockade in the border town of Kaesong, with Kim saying three weeks of isolation had stabilized the pandemic situation, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. However, Kim refuses to accept any outside help to fight either the pandemic or rebuild parts of the country damaged by weeks of torrential rains.
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The state-run KCNA reported that about 97,000 acres of crops were destroyed nationwide, with about 16,600 homes and 630 public buildings destroyed or flooded. Kim expressed sympathy for people who have been relocated to temporary facilities after losing their homes in the floods.
“The situation, in which the spread of the malignant virus worldwide has worsened, requires that we not allow any outside help for flood damage, but close the narrowest border and do strict anti-epidemic work,” he said. warned KCNA Kim.
Experts say the pandemic could thwart Kim’s long-term goals of establishing clear economic support after the country closed its border with China, the North’s main economic lifeline.
The two-pronged problem facing North Korea also highlights important issues for South Korea’s hopes of resuming diplomatic talks. Professor Leif-Eric Easley from Ewha University in Seoul said the country had hoped to use financial aid to bring the North back into the talks.
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“North Korea’s economy, while seeking self-reliance, is increasingly dependent on China and will struggle to balance its efforts to crack down on sanctions and prevent COVID-19,” Easley said. “The task of the new North Korean prime minister will be to show that the country has recovered from the recent floods and improved public health facilities” by the October party anniversary, he said.
North Korea has continued to cut virtually all cooperation with the South following stalled talks as part of a larger US nuclear deal, with no nation spending on sanctions and disarmament steps.
In an email to the Associated Press last week, Dr. Edwin Salvador, the World Health Organization’s representative in North Korea, said the North had told the UN agency that it quarantined the first 64 contacts of the suspected Kaesong case and 3,571 secondary contacts in the relief state for 40 days.
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Since the end of December, North Korea has quarantined and released 25,905 people, 382 of them foreigners, Salvador said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.