North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday addressed the country's struggling economy, issuing a rare and "tense" warning of a possible food shortage and an extension of COVID-19 restrictions.
North Korea's economy has withered away due to the pandemic, a closed-off border blocking major trade from China and devastating floods. The issues have meant food shortages for one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world.
The Korea Development Institute predicts that North Korea could experience a food shortage of around a million tons this year.
Kim also called for discussions about the “current international situation” with no specific reference to the U.S. or South Korea, state media Korean Central News Agency reported.
The country has also been out on any nuclear negotiations with allies for two years.
North Korea is being monitored by analysts for signs of “mass starvation and instability.” The country faced humanitarian disasters in the mid-1990s, 2015 and 2019.
North Korea, one of the most secretive nations in the world, has not claimed any COVID-19 cases.