North Korea and the United StatesThe recent rise in tensions between the United States and North Korean regime has led to a flurry of diplomatic efforts to resolve this conflict. On April 27th‚ Kim Jong Un hosted a delegation of senior South Korean officials in P'yongyang‚ indicating his willingness to talk with President Trump about dismantling his nuclear arsenal in exchange for easing international sanctions. In Hanoi‚ Mr Kim miscalculated and demanded sweeping sanctions relief from the United States‚ despite being unable to deliver it. Trump is proud of driving a hard bargain and has little patience for negotiating at a working level.
SEOUL (South Korea) -- North Korea claimed Saturday that it had found almost 220‚000 additional people suffering from feverish symptoms. Leader Kim Jong Un also said there was progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19‚ which has been largely ignored by a population of 26 millions. There are serious concerns about the outbreak in this poor and isolated nation with an extremely high tolerance for civil suffering. Experts believe that North Korea may be downplaying the severity of the virus spread and allowing for a small number of deaths to ease pressure on Kim‚ as he faces the most difficult moment of his decade-long rule. According to North Korea's Central News Agency (North Korean Central News Agency)‚ 219‚030 North Koreans suffering from fevers were found between 6 and 7 p.m. on Friday. This was the fifth consecutive daily increase over around 200‚000 according to their anti-virus headquarters. North Korea claimed that more than 2.5 million people had fallen ill since April's sudden spread of an unknown fever. However‚ the lack of adequate testing resources has limited their ability to diagnose a few of these cases COVID-19. The North finally admitted last week to having omicron infection after claiming for two and a half years that the virus had been completely blocked from its territory. The North mobilized over a million medical personnel to locate people suffering from fevers‚ and then isolate them in quarantine units. Kim also placed strict travel restrictions in place between towns and cities‚ and mobilized thousands to assist with transporting medicine to the pharmacies located in Pyongyang (the epicenter of the epidemic). KCNA reported that Kim‚ a member of the ruling party Politburo‚ stated Saturday that the country had brought the virus under control. He also called for increased vigilance in order to keep the positive trend in anti-virus campaigns‚ KCNA noted. Kim did not hesitate to suggest that he would relax his pandemic response in order to alleviate his economic woes. He instructed officials to modify country's anti-virus measures to reflect the evolving virus situation‚ and also to develop various plans for revitalizing the nation's economy. KCNA reported that Politburo members discussed ways to more efficiently engineer and execute the government's antivirus policy‚ in line with how spread of the virus is being stably controlled. However the report didn't specify the topics. Kim stressed the need to achieve his economic goals‚ even though he imposed maximum preventive measures. State media reported that large numbers of workers continue to gather on farms‚ power stations‚ and construction sites. Experts believe Kim cannot afford to put the country on hold. This would cause further damage to an already fragile economy that has been strained over decades of poor management‚ crippling U.S. sanctions for his nuclear weapon ambitions‚ and closing border crossings due to pandemic. The state media has portrayed a need for urgent agricultural campaigns to protect crops from an ongoing drought. This is a worrying development for a country which has suffered for decades from food insecurity. It also aims for large-scale construction projects that Kim considers crucial for his rule. Kim has continued to attend important events and hold public functions for his leadership‚ despite the virus. The state media captured him crying during Saturday's funeral of Hyon Chol Hae (a top North Korean military officer)‚ who was believed to be involved in Kim Jong Il's grooming. The optimistic North Korean description of the pandemic response contrasts sharply with external concerns over dire consequences. This includes deaths that could reach thousands. As the country tries to handle the crisis alone‚ and ignores the help of South Korea or the United States‚ the worries are growing. South Korea has denied that North Korea flew in aircraft this week to return emergency supplies from China. In recent years‚ the North has refused to accept millions of vaccines from U.N.-backed COVAX distribution programs. This may be due to international monitoring requirements. UNICEF and the WHO have stated that North Korea has not responded to requests for information or suggestions for assistance. Experts speculate that North Korea may also be open to accepting a limited number of deaths to obtain immunity from infection. There is a possibility that at least part of North Korea’s fever cases are caused by non-COVID-19 diseases such as waterborne illnesses. These non-COVID-19 infections‚ according to South Korean intelligence officers have been a problem in the North over recent years due to shortages in medical equipment. Experts say that the rapid spread of the virus and the lack of an effective testing program to identify viruses carriers early in the infection process suggests the COVID-19 crisis in North Korea is worse than the fever figures. According to them‚ the actual number of deaths from virus-related causes in the country is likely higher than those reported. This will be despite the fact that there are longer intervals between infection and death. North Korea admitted a COVID-19 epidemic during a provocation run of weapons tests. Kim is pushing a brinkmanship to press the United States into accepting the North's idea of nuclear power. This will allow Kim to negotiate security and economic concessions while in a strong position. His pressure campaign will not be slowed by the challenges presented by a declining economy or the COVID-19 epidemic. Officials from the U.S.‚ South Korea have indicated that there is a chance that North Korea will conduct another nuclear bomb test or ballistic missile launch during President Joe Biden’s visit to South Korea this week. For more than three decades‚ nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang stalled over differences over how to ease crippling U.S. sanctions in return for North Korean disarmament.