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N Korea claims victory over virus, blames Seoul for outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared victory over COVID-19 and ordered preventive measures eased just 90 days after acknowledging an outbreak, claiming the countrys widely disputed success will be recognized as a worldwide health miracle.

The Norths official Korean Central News Agency also reported Thursday that Kims sister said her brother had suffered a fever and blamed the North Korean outbreak on leaflets flown from over the border from South Korea, while warning of deadly retaliation.

Some experts believe North Korea has manipulated the scale of the outbreak to greatly help Kim maintain absolute control of the united states amid mounting economic difficulties. They believe the victory statement signals Kims try to proceed to other priorities but are worried his sisters remarks portend a provocation.

South Koreas Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, issued a statement expressing strong regret over North Koreas extremely disrespectful and threatening comments which were predicated on ridiculous claims concerning the way to obtain its infections.

Since North Korea admitted to an omicron outbreak of the herpes virus in-may, it has reported about 4.8 million fever cases in its population of 26 million but only identified a fraction of these as COVID-19. It has claimed the outbreak has been slowing for weeks and just 74 folks have died.

Since we began operating the utmost emergency anti-epidemic campaign (in-may), daily fever cases that reached thousands during the start of the outbreak were reduced to below 90,000 per month later and continuously decreased, rather than an individual case of fever suspected to be from the evil virus has been reported since July 29, Kim said in his speech Wednesday, in accordance with KCNA.

For a country which has yet to manage an individual vaccine shot, our success in overcoming the spread of the condition in that short time of time and recovering safety in public areas health insurance and making our nation a clean virus-free zone again can be an amazing miracle that might be recorded in the worlds history of public health, he said.

For Kim to declare victory against COVID-19 shows that he really wants to move ahead to other priorities, such as for example boosting a broken and heavily sanctioned economy further damaged by pandemic border closures or conducting a nuclear test, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said North Korea could possibly be gearing up because of its first nuclear test in five years amid its torrid run of weapons tests this season that included its first demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017.

The provocative testing activity underscores Kims dual intent to advance his arsenal and pressure the Biden administration over long-stalled negotiations targeted at leveraging its nukes for badly needed sanctions relief and security concessions, experts say.

Kim Jun-rak, a spokesperson for South Koreas Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday the South Korean military was maintaining firm readiness and prepared for various likelihood of North Korean provocations.

The bellicose rhetoric of Kims sister, Kim Yo Jong, is concerning since it indicates she’ll make an effort to blame any COVID-19 resurgence on the South and is particularly seeking to justify North Koreas next military provocation, Easley said.

North Korea first suggested in July that its COVID-19 outbreak began in individuals who had connection with objects carried by balloons flown from South Korea a questionable and unscientific declare that were an attempt to carry its rival responsible.

Activists for a long time have flown balloons over the border to distribute thousands of propaganda leaflets critical of Kim, and North Korea has often expressed fury at the activists and at South Koreas leadership for not stopping them.

During Wednesdays meeting, Kim Yo Jong reiterated those claims, calling the countrys virus crisis a hysteric farce kicked off by South Korea to escalate confrontation. She claimed that her brother had suffered fever symptoms and praised his energetic and meticulous guidance for bringing an epoch-making miracle in the fight COVID-19.

(South Korean) puppets remain thrusting leaflets and dirty objects into our territory. We should countermand it toughly, she said. We’ve already considered various counteraction plans, but our countermeasure should be a deadly retaliatory one.

Kim Yo Jongs mention of Kim Jong Uns illness wasnt further explained.

Outside experts suspect the herpes virus spread after North Korea briefly reopened its northern border with China to freight traffic in January and surged further carrying out a military parade along with other large-scale events in Pyongyang in April.

IN-MAY, Kim prohibited travel between cities and counties to slow the spread of the herpes virus. But he also stressed that his economic goals ought to be met, which meant huge groups continued to assemble at agricultural, industrial and construction sites.

At the herpes virus meeting, Kim needed the easing of preventive measures and for the country to keep up vigilance and effective border controls, citing the global spread of new coronavirus variants and monkeypox.

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