North Korea launched its first missile test of 2020 earlier this month, firing two unidentified projectiles over the sea from the Wonsan area in the east of the country. Spring time is usually the point in the year when Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un accelerates his country’s testing – North Korea completed 10 tests across 2019 with two in May. While the motives of North Korean tests are always a subject of speculation – one expert claimed the country was sending a warning to the US and its neighbours South Korea.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies said that North Korea appeared “intent on raising the stakes before South Korea’s April elections and before the Super Tuesday primaries of the US presidential campaign”.
The Democratic Primaries took place earlier this month.
He added: “North Korea is making clear with these missile tests it will continue to improve military capabilities and make outsized demands, despite the political and public health preoccupations of Beijing, Seoul and Washington.”
Coronavirus has infected more than 132,500 people and killed nearly 5,000 globally, according to the World Health Organisation.
The US has been impacted by the pandemic, with Donald Trump coming under fire for his handling of the outbreak.
In the US, More than 1,600 cases of the virus were being treated across the country and at least 41 deaths have been reported.
But North Korea – despite being in lockdown – is not letting up on its military ambitions, as this month’s test shows.
Kim Jong-un has been staying away from public outings in the country, but made time at the end of last month to inspect a joint strike drill of the North Korean People’s Army – state media reported.
The country has not reported any cases of the coronavirus, however there are doubts over how true this is as the country is famously secretive about events inside its borders.
But experts on the country claim that it lacks the healthcare infrastructure, including diagnostic machines and specific kits to test people for symptoms, to effectively deal with the pandemic.
Worse for North Korea, the country shares a border with China while also being reliant on the country for trade and political backing.
Commerce with China makes up more than 90 percent of North Korea’s total trade, but given that Wuhan was the epicentre of the crisis, the country’s economy has suffered.
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The subsequent lockdown had a massive impact on the country’s economy, and threatens to send it into its first retraction since 1970.
Economic activity sharply declined across the board in February as companies struggled to reopen for business or hire workers during a government-mandated shutdown, according to official and private surveys released earlier this month.
Kit Juckes, strategist at Societe Generale said: “China’s economy is in a very bad way indeed.”
Beijing’s economic influence around the world means North Korea, as well as countries across the globe, will be vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic damage.
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