FILE IMAGE - North Korean defectors, now living in South Korea, prepare to release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing North Korea's nuclear test, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Oct. 10, 2014, in Paju, South Korea.
(Photo by Jang S SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea suggested Friday its COVID-19 outbreak began in people who had contact with balloons flown from South Korea — a highly questionable claim that appeared to be an attempt to hold its rival responsible amid increasing tensions over its nuclear program.Activists for years have flown balloons across the border to distribute hundreds of thousands of propaganda leaflets critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and North Korea has often expressed fury at the activists and at South Korea’s leadership for not stopping them.Global health authorities say the coronavirus is spread by people in close contact who inhale airborne droplets and it’s more likely to occur in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces than outdoors. South Korea’s Unification Ministry said there was no chance South Korean balloons might have spread the virus to North Korea.Ties between the Koreas remain strained amid a long-running stalemate in U.S.-led diplomacy on persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for economic and political benefits.
South Korean and U.S. officials have recently said North Korea is ready for its first nuclear test in five years amid its torrid run of weapons tests this year.RELATED: North Korea's latest weapons launch ends in failure, South Korea saysThe state media report said North Korea’s epidemic prevention center had found infection clusters in the town of Ipho near its southeastern border with South Korea and that some Ipho
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