North Korea has urged UN member states to “immediately withdraw” trade restrictions and sanctions against it, arguing that the move would help facilitate global cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 epidemic.
In remarks submitted to the World Health Assembly (WHA) held this week in Geneva, the DPRK condemned governments that “politicize” the provision of aid, appearing to side with China in its growing dispute with the U.S. over the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Citing the need for “proactive steps” towards a global response to fight the pandemic, Pyongyang said it “strongly urge[s] countries concerned to immediately withdraw existing unilateral economic, financial and trade restrictions and anti-humanitarian sanctions.”
“All kinds of discrimination and politicization in providing assistance” should be brought to an end, it continued, for the sake of global solidarity and mutual cooperation.
The 73rd World Health Assembly, convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), was held from Monday to Tuesday in Geneva.
While the DPRK delegation did not speak at the conference, it submitted a statement to the assembly re-emphasizing its stance on the appropriate global response to COVID-19 and reiterating claims that the country is free from the virus.
While North Korea is subject to a wide range of international and U.S. sanctions, the UN has been quick to provide exemptions from those measures allowing the shipment of coronavirus-related aid to the country.
Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), for example, have received permission to send aid into the DPRK.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese leader Xi Jinping earlier this month exchanged a “verbal message of thanks,” lauding each other’s mutual support during the epidemic and discussing further cooperation.
Reiterating those ties this week, the DPRK delegation in its statement to the WHA called out “some countries’ attempts to use the catastrophe for their impure political purposes” — likely a reference to an ongoing confrontation between China and the U.S. over the origins of the virus.
It was irresponsible, it went on, to pass the blame of the pandemic “caused by their ignoring the warnings of WHO with no proper action… to WHO and one of its Member States.”
“It is a clear deviation from the focused discussion to raise inappropriate issues like ‘someone’s responsibility,’ explicating the origin of virus.”
The remarks appear to refer to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent attempts to hold China “accountable” for not stopping the pandemic at the source.
North Korea went on to state it “fully opposes” any attempt to cause disunity between member states, including by discussing the status of Taiwan in the WHO.
While reaffirming its claim that the country has detected zero COVID-19 cases so far, Pyongyang in the statement praised Kim Jong Un’s leadership in implementing prevention measures.
“From the beginning of the epidemic outbreak, the DPRK government has sounded alarm bells over its danger and has moved swiftly into a scientific and preemptive super-class emergency anti-epidemic system to completely block all possible influx space of infectious disease and take strict measures to prevent its infection,” the statement said.
North Korea’s borders have been closed since late January, with the country also putting a halt to tourism and implementing a “national emergency quarantine system.”
“It is the firm determination and will of Comrade Kim Jong Un… that nothing can be bartered with the life and safety of the people although we could suffer a huge economic loss,” the statement said.
The “economic loss” supposedly risked by investing in the nationwide quarantine measures has been a frequent topic in North Korean state media in recent months.
“We pride ourselves on the fact that there is no single confirmed case of COVID-19 to date in our country, which is thanks to the prominent leadership and noble politics of love for people of Comrade Kim Jong Un,” the DPRK delegation said.
The fight against COVID-19 bears “a close resemblance to a world war,” it continued, noting its impact on the global economy.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
North Korea has urged UN member states to "immediately withdraw" trade restrictions and sanctions against it, arguing that the move would help facilitate global cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 epidemic.
In remarks submitted to the World Health Assembly (WHA) held this week in Geneva, the DPRK condemned governments that "politicize" the provision of aid, appearing to side with China in its growing dispute with the U.S. over the origins of the novel coronavirus.