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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 5)

All News 06:57 July 05, 2022

Absurd COVID-19 claim
: North Korea should return to negotiating table to ensure peace

North Korea has claimed that its coronavirus outbreak began when two residents touched "alien things" in an area near the eastern inter-Korean border region in early April. The North's Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters said Friday that it had started in the Ipho-ri area of Geumgang County, north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

"An 18-year-old soldier and a five-year-old child in the area were identified as the first two positive cases of the coronavirus outbreak," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. The report did not mention South Korea directly, but Pyongyang indicated that the virus originated from anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets and other items South Korean civic groups sent across the border via balloons.

The Ministry of Unification here refuted the North Korean claim, saying spreading the virus through contaminated surfaces or objects is "practically impossible." The ministry claimed that the South Korean civic group that sent the balloons in question did so on April 25 and 26, not in early April.

It's not difficult to figure out why the reclusive regime in the North is trying to hold Seoul accountable for the spread of the virus. To begin with, North Korea is seeking to calm public discontent by shifting the blame for its COVID-19 crisis onto the South. In fact, Kim Jong-un, the North's young leader, has been chairing high-level meetings in what appears to be a desperate attempt to solidify his leadership since North Korea acknowledged its first infections in May. Some experts say Pyongyang may be trying to set the stage for heightened tensions at a time when its seventh nuclear test is being delayed.

North Korea is in trouble because of chronic economic ills and natural calamities. Its international position is also weakening rapidly as a new confrontation takes shape between democracy involving Seoul, Washington and Tokyo and autocracy implicating Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow. The impoverished state should stop its nuclear and missile development programs and return to the negotiating table for everlasting peace.

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