North Korean authorities have issued shoot-to-kill orders to stop the coronavirus from entering the country from China, claimed a United States Forces Korea commander, according to AFP.

North Korea has so far not confirmed any cases of the coronavirus, which has affected almost every country in the world. It had, however, in June imposed a lockdown in Kaesong city, claiming that the country’s first suspected case of the coronavirus has been discovered there.

The Kim Jong-un ruled country had closed its borders with its ally China in January to prevent the virus from reaching North Korea and had raised its emergency to the maximum level.

US Forces Korea commander Robert Abrams said that a new buffer zone, one or two kilometers in length has been prepared on the border with China. He said North Korea authorities took the measures after closed borders led to an increase in smuggling of goods into the country. Earlier in June, officials had said that “severe punishment” will be given to those who are responsible for letting the man cross the border.

“They’ve got North Korean SOF [Special Operations Forces] out there,” Abrams said at an online conference organised by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “... Strike forces, they’ve got shoot-to-kill orders in place.”

Abrams said that the border shutdown has effectively “accelerated the effects” of economic sanctions imposed on the country over its nuclear programs. Imports from China have dropped down by 85%, he added.

The commander said he does not expect any provocations from North Korea, which was focused on dealing with the aftermath of Typhoon Maysak. Over 2,000 houses have been destroyed or flooded because of the typhoon. He, however, added that the country might be planning to show new weapons on October 10 at the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the party that has ruled North Korea since its inception in 1948.

A Center for Strategic and International Studies report published on Tuesday showed a satellite image of North Korea’s Sinpo South Shipyard with activity within a secured boat basin. “This activity remains suggestive, but not conclusive, of preparations for an upcoming test of a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile [SLBM] from the submersible test stand barge based here,” the report said.

A new ballistic missile may further affect denuclearisation talks between Washington and Pyongyang, which have been stalled despite multiple meetings between Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump.

Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 2.8 crore people and killed 9,07,980, according to the Johns Hopkins University. The number of worldwide recoveries has crossed 1.88 crore.