G-7 blames North Korea arms push for health emergency

In a photo released on March 4, 2020, volunteers carry out temperature screening in Pyongyang. PHOTO: REUTERS

WEISSENHAUS (BLOOMBERG) - Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised nations blamed North Korea's push for weapons of mass destruction for the humanitarian situation in the country, as state media reported more than 170,000 new cases in a worsening fever outbreak.

In a joint statement on Saturday (May 14) following a meeting in northern Germany, the G-7 ministers expressed their grave concern about the situation in North Korea, which they said is the result of the choice "to prioritise its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs over the welfare of its own people".

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier on Saturday called a spreading fever outbreak "the big upheaval since the nation's founding," and state media reported more than 170,000 new cases with 21 deaths.

He has ordered a lockdown of major cities since the country said this week it had identified a Covid-19 case within its borders.

Until Thursday, North Korea had denied it had any Covid-19 cases, a claim questioned by experts in the US, Japan and elsewhere. It has also refused vaccines from other countries.

The G-7 foreign ministers urged the government "to facilitate access for international humanitarian organisations for the delivery of urgently required humanitarian goods such as food and medicines and for independent assessment of humanitarian needs as soon as possible".

The ministers said they "strongly condemn the continued testing of ballistic missiles" by North Korea, and reiterated their demand that the country "abandon its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes, and any other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

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