Explaining the Unexpected Timing of North Korea’s COVID Crisis

Kim is probably becoming desperate for international aid after his 16 missile launches thus far failed to attract the attention that he expected to leverage to that end, hence why he’s now playing the COVID card in an attempt to ensure that everyone finally considers helping his country without preconditions.

Most of the world with the notable exception of China has pretty much already transitioned back to the pre-COVID normal in recent months, which is why it was so unexpected to hear that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just declared that the virus has suddenly become a “great disaster” for his country. The BBC also reported that state media shared statistics suggesting that there have been half a million suspected cases in recent weeks. Many thought that COVID had already infiltrated the so-called “hermit kingdom” long ago despite its official denials up until now, yet that still doesn’t explain the unexpected timing of this latest crisis, which the present piece will attempt to answer.

Those who don’t ascribe to the official narrative about COVID have long praised the North Korean leader as a hero for supposedly standing up to the World Economic Forum (WEF), World Health Organization (WHO), and other globalist bodies that they blame for politicizing this virus. That secular deification has now been discredited after he acknowledged the latest crisis and was seen on TV wearing a mask for the first time. It remains unclear how those skeptics will explain his sudden volte face but they must at the very least be extremely disappointed by him. Kim’s embrace of the official COVID narrative represents the fall of yet another idol in their pantheon and erodes his soft power appeal among those groups.

While it can’t be known for sure, he might have finally decided to come clean about his country’s COVID crisis not because the virus itself is now supposedly destabilizing his country’s society, but perhaps due to economic factors. China’s practical shutdown in the face of its latest viral outbreaks as part of its zero-COVID strategy could have disrupted the situation in neighboring North Korea since that country disproportionately depends on the People’s Republic for its survival. Everything might have gotten so bad that Kim could have wagered that it’s better to finally come clean about COVID even at the expense of his soft power among global skeptics in a desperate attempt to receive international aid.

He’s clearly been trying to generate a lot of attention lately with his country’s recent missile launches but the world has been too distracted by Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine to care all that much like they used to. Furthermore, any speculative disruption in Chinese aid might not have even been directly connected to supply chain stoppages linked to its zero-COVID policy but could be an asymmetrical response signaling Beijing’s displeasure of Pyongyang’s 16 missile launches thus far this year. While Kim might have done them to simultaneously show strength but also generate attention in the hopes of obtaining more aid, he could also have inadvertently contributed to regional militarization.

That’s because Japan and South Korea obviously don’t feel comfortable whenever these launches happen, and with last year’s debut of AUKUS, the US now has an official anti-Chinese alliance at the ready to help them “defend themselves” if they request it to do so. In reality, however, any AUKUS-backed military support to those two countries would also serve the dual purpose of contributing to the “containment” of China. The argument can be made that this might have happened anyhow, but by unwittingly giving them the pretext, Kim is playing into their soft power hand at the expense of China’s. US-led AUKUS now has the perfect cover to continue militarizing Northeast Asia.

To conclude, it’s unrealistic to believe that the timing of North Korea’s COVID crisis is purely due to the current epidemiological situation since it’s most likely linked to its deteriorating economic situation that’s probably connected to some extent with supply chain disruptions stemming from his Chinese patron state’s strict zero-COVID policy that’s practically frozen large parts of its economy. Kim is probably becoming desperate for international aid after his 16 missile launches thus far failed to attract the attention that he expected to leverage to that end, hence why he’s now playing the COVID card in an attempt to ensure that everyone finally considers helping his country without preconditions.


By Andrew Korybko
Source: OneWorld

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