North Korea continues to claim there are zero cases of COVID-19 within its tightly sealed borders.
But over the past weeks and months, the regime has shown signs it might actually be grappling with the virus, enforcing stringent lockdowns and social distancing measures, issuing warnings to the public and receiving medical supplies from international organizations.
How widespread is the virus in the regime, and what does it have to gain by denying infection cases?
We have today Dr. Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, specializing in Northeast Asian military issues. It's great to see you.
Kim Jeong-min, a correspondent for NK News based in Seoul. Nice to see you.
1. Dr. Bennett: Does it seem to you that COVID-19 has been somewhat contained in North Korea, or is the regime more worried than they are letting on? How serious might the crisis be?
2. Ms. Kim: From your observation, how does COVID-19 situation appear in the North? Is it under control?
3. Dr. Bennett: How susceptible would the North Korean people be to COVID-19 The North Korean military is already known to be critically undernourished and lack proper amenities.
4. Ms. Kim: How would the pandemic worsen North Korea’s humanitarian crisis? International organisations have warned of food shortages, and we already know the North lacks adequate medical infrastructure.
5. Dr. Bennett: Why is the regime denying it has COVID-19 patients within its borders, and why has it rejected offers of assistance from S. Korea and the U.S.?
6. Dr. Bennett: How big of an impact has the virus had on the regime and its economy as a result, how precarious is Kim Jong-un’s leadership right now?
7. Ms. Kim: What has the regime's state media been reporting about the virus, especially with a North Korean defector having returned to the North.
8. Dr. Bennett: What do you think about the regime's claims that it's also developing a vaccine?
9. Dr. Bennett: At the same time, some say the North has also benefited from the virus, strengthening its ties with China and taking advantage of America’s relatively weaker position as it also struggles to handle the pandemic. Would you agree? Is the North using the pandemic to its advantage?
That's where we'll have to wrap up the discussion today. Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, specializing in Northeast Asian military issues.
Kim Jeong-min, a correspondent for NK News based in Seoul. Thanks for joining us