Washington: North Korean authorities have issued shoot-to-kill orders to prevent the coronavirus entering the country from China. This information has been provided by a commander of US forces that are stationed in South Korea.
The frailty of North Korea’s healthcare system is well-known. Everyone including its leaders is aware that if there is a coronavirus outbreak happens it will struggle to cope with it. However, till now since the outbreak of the pandemic across the world, North Korea is yet to report a single case of the disease.
Pyongyang closed its border with ‘friend’ China in January to try to prevent contamination. In July state-run media said it had raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.
US Forces Korea (USFK) commander Robert Abrams said that the border shutdown had increased demand for smuggled goods, prompting authorities to intervene.
“The North introduced a new ‘buffer zone’, one or two kilometers up on the Chinese border,” Abrams told an online conference organised Thursday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.
“They’ve got North Korean SOF (Special Operations Forces) out there. Strike forces, they’ve got shoot-to-kill orders in place,” Abrams said.
The border closure had effectively ‘accelerated the effects’ of economic sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear programmes, he added, with imports from China plunging 85 per cent.
North Korea is also grappling with the aftermath of ‘Typhoon Maysak’, with its state media reporting more than 2’,000 houses have been destroyed or inundated’.
As a result, Abrams did not expect to see any major provocations from Pyongyang in the near future. He however, said it might show off a new weapons system at next month’s celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the founding of Kim Jong Un’s ruling party.
“The regime right now – the military – is focused principally on getting their country recovered and to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19,” Abrams said. “We’re not seeing any indications right now of any sort of lashing out,” he added.
However, CSIS has published on its website a satellite image of North Korea’s Sinpo South naval shipyard. Experts believe that the activity demonstrated could indicate preparations for a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.