(ATTN: ADDS info about Kim's public appearance in paras 10-11)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Feb. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party and discussed coronavirus prevention measures, including strengthening testing and quarantine efforts, state media said Saturday.
North Korea has yet to report a case of COVID-19 but has intensified its preventive efforts across the country, calling its fight against the virus is a "political matter" that will determine the fate of the country.
"In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences," Kim was quoted by the North's Korean Central News Agency as telling the expanded politburo meeting.
"The strong measures taken by our party and the government from the beginning have been the surest and highly reliable, preemptive and decisive preventive measures as this viral infection spreads so rapidly, its incubation period is uncertain and its contagion route is also scientifically uncertain," Kim said.
Anti-virus measures the North has taken include shutting down its border with China, a neighboring country hardest-hit by the virus outbreak and beefing up quarantine for those coming from outside. It also recently delayed the opening of its schools.
"No special cases must be allowed within the state anti-epidemic system," Kim said, stressing the need to set up "a strict discipline by which all the fields and units of the country unconditionally obey to the command and control of the Central Headquarters for the emergency anti-epidemic work."
Kim also instructed officials "seal off all the channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way, and strengthen check-up, test and quarantine under the work system and order already in place."
"The anti-epidemic measures being taken by us is a crucial state affair for the defense of the people and a heavy responsibility of the Party Central Committee, not just the prevention of the disease, "Kim said.
Kim also said that it is urgent to "supplement and complement the law on the state emergency anti-epidemic and to readjust state crisis control regulations in an orderly way."
Kim's attendance in the meeting marked his first reported public appearance since he visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on occasion of his late father's birthday on Feb. 16.
The visit to the mausoleum came after a 22-day absence from public view, which stoked speculation that he had refrained from outdoor activity over coronavirus concerns.
Meanwhile the political bureau also discussed organizational affairs.
The KCNA said that the politburo decided to disband the committee's "cadre training base which was involved in the practices of corruption and irregularities, and to impose relevant penalty." It also dismissed Ri Man-gon and Pak Tae-bok from the vice chairman posts of the Party Central Committee.
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