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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea turns to China for help as COVID cases explode

Pyongyang likely to think hard before accepting vaccines from abroad

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a pharmacy in Pyongyang on Sunday.   © KCNA/Kyodo

SEOUL -- After more than two years of insisting it was COVID-free, North Korea is now battling a massive surge of infections and is reaching out for help to its closest ally and main economic benefactor: China.

Last Thursday, North Korean media said the country was fighting its "first-ever" COVID outbreak after the omicron variant was detected on May 8 in Pyongyang. At a Politburo meeting the same day, leader Kim Jong Un wore a mask in public for the first time, and ordered all cities and counties across the nation to "thoroughly lock down" their regions.

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