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(LEAD) N.K. leader attends politburo meeting to discuss anti-coronavirus measures

All News 08:05 April 12, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in last 5 paras, photo)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has attended a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, discussing anti-coronavirus measures and electing his sister as an alternate member of the bureau, state media said Sunday.

The politburo meeting held on Saturday suggests that a key session of the country's rubber-stamp legislature Supreme People's Assembly, which was supposed to take place on Friday, has been postponed for unclear reasons because a politburo meeting usually takes place on the eve of an SPA session.

The politburo meeting discussed antivirus efforts, budget issues and other organization matters, and a resolution was adopted "on more thoroughly taking national measures for protecting the life and safety of our people to cope with the worldwide epidemic disease," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"It has become impossible to remove the danger of the virus infection in a short time and such environment can become a condition creating some obstacles to our struggle and progress," the KCNA said.

"Our country took strict top-class emergency anti-epidemic measures from the outset and established thorough-going organization, consistency and compulsoriness in the nationwide protective measures. It, therefore, has been maintaining very stable anti-epidemic situation," it added.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a politburo meeting held on April 11, 2020 in this photo captured from the website of the Korean Central News Agency (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The politburo meeting also called for consistently taking "strict national countermeasures to thoroughly check the infiltration of the virus in the light of the development of the steady expansive spread of the worldwide epidemic disease," the KCNA said.

North Korea is among just a few countries in the world that claim to have no coronavirus infections, but many outside observers suspect that Pyongyang might be hushing up an outbreak.

Pyongyang has taken relatively drastic antivirus measures by closing its borders with China, where the coronavirus originated in late December. It has also toughened quarantine criteria and restricted the movement of people and goods.

During Saturday's meeting, the North also elected members and alternate members of the political bureau, the Central Committee, the Central Auditing Commission and the Inspection Commission, including the appointment of Kim Yo-jong, the leader's younger sister, as an alternate politburo member.

Kim Yo-jong had been dismissed from the powerful bureau during a plenary session of the Workers' Party held in April last year, about two months after a no-deal summit between leader Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Photos released by state media showed around 30 politburo members and alternate members took part in the meeting, relatively smaller than previous gatherings apparently in consideration of the coronavirus fears.

North Korea earlier said that the SPA would convene a key session on Friday but there has been no word on the meeting, raising speculation that it might have been cancelled or postponed amid coronavirus fears.

North Korea usually holds an SPA session once every April to discuss domestic agendas and this year's meeting was expected to center on public health and economic issues aimed at cushioning the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting also draws keen attention as Pyongyang could send a message to the U.S. amid a stalemate in denuclearization talks, which have stalled since the Hanoi summit.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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