North Korea mysteriously locks down major border city

North Korea has mysteriously locked down a major border city, a move reportedly connected to either the coronavirus — or a planned event for missing-again despot Kim Jong Un.
The Hermit Kingdom — one of the few nations on Earth claiming to be coronavirus-free — barred entry earlier this month to Rason, a city of 20,000 that is a major hub for trade with Russia and China, sources told Radio Free Asia Tuesday.
The notoriously secretive nation has refused to tell its citizens why the city was suddenly locked down, RFA said.
Many fear that it could be a sign of a coronavirus outbreak, with bordering China also sealing off Jilin city and Shulan close to their shared border after a recent spike in cases.
However, one source stressed to RFA, “Even when the coronavirus was at its worst in China, access [to Rason] was not fully controlled.”
Others believe it could just be a security clampdown for a visiting elite — potentially even plans for dictator Kim Jong Un to appear in public again to end continuing rumors over his well-being.
“Some residents say that they could be planning a Number One event [there],” the source said, referring to events attended by the leader.
“There’s no clear reason yet, though. The authorities have shut down entry to the city but have not explained in detail how long the city will be closed. This is causing further inconvenience,” the source added.
“Some merchants are trying to enter the city through an unofficial passageway [by scaling a barbed-wire fence], but if they are caught they would be severely punished,” the source told RFA. “We are waiting for the lockdown be lifted as soon as possible.”
The US military has said it suspects there are cases in North Korea, and Kim’s regime has accepted help from other nations to fight the virus.
All the countries surrounding it — South Korea, Russia and China, where the contagion originated — have all been hit hard by the pandemic.

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