The unlikely support comes as North Korea has begun setting up a quarantine facility for the virus despite reporting no cases.
In a statement during the World Health Assembly, North Korea’s delegate said WHO member states should be “wary” of countries that are trying to use the “catastrophe for their impure political purposes”.
The North Koreans didn’t mention any country by name but said it was an “expression of irresponsibility” to blame the WHO or one of the member states for the outbreak if a country ignored “the warnings of WHO with no proper action.”
In addition, North Korea supported the assemblies resolution to launch an evaluation of the virus post-pandemic, but added that such topics as “someone’s responsibility” or Taiwan’s membership in the assembly were inappropriate.
The North Koreans claimed this deviated from what should be the focus of the discussion, which was a collaborative response to the coronavirus.
North Korea claims to have not had a single case, a success the delegation attributed to Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s “prominent leadership.”
Experts are skeptical of North Korea’s zero case claim, with Jung Pak, a former CIA analyst and North Korea expert with the Brookings Institution, told USA Today it’s a “near impossibility” that the country has no infections.
Bruce Klingner, an ex-CIA deputy division chief for Korea, also said it was “hard to believe” there weren’t any cases but noted that it’s possible the outbreak was limited.
Unlike the information about mass graves that came out in the 1990s, when an estimated 2 million to 3.5 million North Koreans died, Klingner said people aren’t hearing about “bodies being stacked like cordwood.”
The WHO has agreed to hold an inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO member states adopted the proposal with no objections during the World Health Assembly meeting on Tuesday, after the European Union and Australia led calls for an investigation.
WHO officials have acknowledged that there would likely be lessons to be learned from the outbreak, and director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday he would initiate an independent review “at the earliest appropriate moment.”
However, he has denied claims that the organisation failed to properly warn the world about the threat posed by the new coronavirus.
North Korea has also urged UN member states to “immediately withdraw” trade restrictions and sanctions against it, arguing that the move would help facilitate global cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 epidemic.
The country has condemned governments that “politicise” the provision of aid, appearing to side with China in its growing dispute with the US over the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Citing the need for “proactive steps” towards a global response to fight the pandemic, Pyongyang said it “strongly urge[s] countries concerned to immediately withdraw existing unilateral economic, financial and trade restrictions and anti-humanitarian sanctions.”
“All kinds of discrimination and politicisation in providing assistance” should be brought to an end, it continued, for the sake of global solidarity and mutual cooperation.