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North Korea Warns South Will 'Pay Dearly' for Casting Doubt on COVID-free Claims

People wearing protective face masks commute amid concerns over the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 30, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo.

North Korea says South Korea’s foreign minister will “pay dearly” for casting doubt on the regime’s claims of being free of the novel coronavirus.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said last week at a forum in Bahrain it was “hard to believe” the North has been spared from the pandemic, which has sickened more than 68.2 million people across the globe, including more than 1.5 million fatalities. Kang also criticized the isolated regime for failing to cooperate with Seoul on a cross-border response.

In a statement released Wednesday by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said it was obvious that Kang “is too eager to further chill the frozen relations” between the bitter rivals based on Kang’s “reckless remarks made by her without any consideration of the consequences.”

Kim said the regime “will never forget” Kang’s words, and “she might have to pay dearly for it.”

KCNA announced last week that North Korea had imposed “top-class emergency measures” in the capital to stem any potential spread of the virus, including closing restaurants and restricting people’s movements.

Kim Yo Jong’s remarks came as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s chief envoy to the stalled six-nation talks over convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, arrived in Seoul in an effort to revive the negotiations.