On New Year’s Day, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea revealed strategies to foil the designs of those who had imposed sanctions on his regime. China is an ally of North Korea and Kim Jong-un wanted to evolve new methods of improving the economic conditions between the two countries. He relied on China to extend much necessary support. The country usually provided employment opportunities to North Koreans and sent over people from China to the North as tourists. However, Coronavirus struck and the hermit kingdom had to save itself from the deadly virus.

It closed the border with China. That, in turn, crippled the economy that was already weak because of international sanctions. Kim Jong-un had not foreseen a situation like the virus. He did not want to take any chances and, to ensure the safety of his country, he shut down the border with its neighbor. The move backfired.

New York Times says the North relied on China for most of its trade. These included consumer goods, raw materials, fuel, and machine parts. Most of these items were clandestine supplies that kept the markets and factories busy. These were in spite of sanctions imposed by the United Nations to arrest the nuclear ambitions of the regime.

However, by sealing its borders, North Korea suffered losses. It had opened some ski and spa resorts to cater to tourists but they became dead investments since there were no tourists from China.

North Korea to balance its priorities

The virus from China took North Korea by surprise. It isolated the country’s economy as no sanctions could and it finds itself out on a limb.

New York Times goes on to add that the pandemic was an unexpected development and the policymakers failed to see it coming. There are no cases of coronavirus in North Korea even though its public health system would make it vulnerable to mass infection. That is a plus point in favor of North Korea because the immediate closure of the borders could have played a major part.

It might have prevented the spread of infection but it also brought in economic implications.

Denuclearization still an unresolved issue for North Korea

Kim Jong-un wants relief from sanctions imposed on his country. It was fallout over developing and testing nuclear weapons. New York Times mentions the meetings between him and US President Donald Trump. They discussed the issue of denuclearization but it remains unresolved. On top of that, the recent hostilities unleashed by Pyongyang have taken Seoul and the United States by surprise.

It was the destruction of the North-South liaison office in North Korea. Observers feel this was an act of economic desperation on the part of the North. Kim Jong-un has encouraged his people to produce more goods at home, like snacks, cosmetics, and beverages.

However, these have links to raw material supplied by China. That is not likely to happen unless the border is reopened.

Possibilities of another meeting between North Korea and the US

According to Business World, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was trying to get Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump to agree to another meeting. It could be prior to the US presidential election in November. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun had expressed doubts about another meeting before the election. He quoted COVID-19 as a reason but added that there is still time to make "substantial progress."

Stephen Biegun is in Asia and will be meeting officials in Seoul and Tokyo.

These are in his itinerary. There is no information on whether China is also there. The two leaders, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have met three times in Singapore, Hanoi and in the DMZ to discuss denuclearization. However, there is a stalemate between the US and North Korea to arrive at a workable solution. It is difficult to predict when or where the two sides might meet again.