An intestinal epidemic hits North Korea as a new nuclear test is expected

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TOKYO – As South Korean and US officials reiterated their warnings this week about a possible North Korean nuclear test, Pyongyang announced that it is battling a new intestinal epidemic that comes as the country grapples with a persistent drought. Lack of food and cash of border lock.

During his visit to Washington this week, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin reiterated US assessments that North Korea appears to have completed preparations for its seventh nuclear test, which would sharply raise the stakes in the diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Pyongyang. Park said he believed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was waiting for the time to make his “political decision.”

New satellite images released this week by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies show that renovation work at the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility, which has been underway for the past four months, appears to be complete.

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Pyongyang has conducted an unprecedented batch of missile tests as it rapidly expands and diversifies its weapons programs. It has tested an estimated 31 ballistic missiles this year – beating the annual record in just six months, and despite UN Security Council resolutions banning such tests.

All the while, North Korea remains tightly closed to its borders, even to its largest trading partner, neighboring China. Park, speaking at a news conference with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken this week, warned North Korea not to further isolate itself.

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I think North Korea is at a crossroads now. It can go ahead with its nuclear test and isolate itself, or it can make the right decision and return to diplomacy and dialogue. I hope North Korea can make the last choice instead of continuing on a dangerous course of action,” Park said.

The Korea Institute for Defense Analytics, under the South Korean Defense Ministry, has estimated that North Korea has spent up to 2 percent of its gross domestic product this year — between $400 million and $650 million — on its missile tests.

Meanwhile, the North’s Korean Central News Agency on Thursday reported the outbreak of an “acute intestinal epidemic”, without naming the disease or giving a number of cases. The term enteric refers to the digestive system, and observers said the disease could be intestinal disease like typhoid and cholera.

The announcement, while worrying, does not necessarily indicate a worsening public health crisis, according to Ahn Kyung-su, of the Seoul Research Center.

Waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid were rampant in North Korea before the country’s first case of coronavirus was announced. Ahn said intestinal disease outbreaks are not uncommon given the country’s poor sanitary and hygienic conditions.

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“Recent state media reports about the outbreak may be politically motivated to show leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts for his people,” An said.

North Korea’s state media reported that Kim is distributing medical aid as part of his “noble view of selfless service to the people’s welfare.”

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However, the outbreak may complicate matters for the system, which is already battling the coronavirus outbreak amid mounting economic problems and a chronic shortage of vaccines and medicines.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Thursday that it is ready to help North Korea fight the new outbreak. But Pyongyang has not responded to offers of help in fighting the coronavirus from South Korea and the United States and is unlikely to change course with countries the regime considers threats to national security.

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North Korea asked to restore freight train service with China amid shortages of food and medical supplies, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun mentioned This week, according to Chinese sources. This was the latest sign of North Korea’s growing dependence on Beijing Pyongyang draw closer Amid the escalating competition between the United States and China.

Denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea collapsed in 2019. The United States said it was ready to resume talks without preconditions, and North Korea said it wanted sanctions relief. The United States has not indicated it would be open to any sanctions being lifted and has pushed for more in response to Pyongyang’s latest tests.

Last week, China’s envoy to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, said, He said Beijing does not want North Korea to see another nuclear test and called on the United States to lift sanctions and end joint military exercises: “The United States is the number one superpower in the world. If the United States wants to enter into a dialogue with anyone in the world, it is not difficult ” .

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