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When North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, acknowledged an outbreak of COVID-19 last week, he ordered his government to learn from ​China’s "success” fighting the virus​.​ ​What he did not say is that an attempt to follow China’s pandemic response could send his impoverished country toward catastrophe.

China has used strict lockdowns, mass testing and vaccinations to keep cases low throughout the pandemic. North Korea — which by its own admission is experiencing an explosive outbreak of the virus — lacks the basic therapeutics and food supplies that China has mobilized to enforce the extreme restrictions seen in cities like Wuhan, Xi’an and Shanghai.

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