US fails to monitor coronavirus in China, N. Korea, and Russia

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The US intelligence community, trying to get an accurate picture of the coronavirus pandemic, has found serious gaps in its ability to assess the situation in China, Russia and North Korea, said five sources in the US administration who are familiar with the information.

Intelligence agencies also have a limited understanding of the impact of the pandemic in Iran, although information on infections and deaths among the ruling class and ordinary citizens is becoming increasingly available in official and social media, two sources said.

These four countries are known to American spy agencies as “difficult targets” because of tight state control over information and the difficulty, even in normal times, of collecting intelligence in their closed leadership circles.

An accurate assessment of outbreaks in these countries would help the United States and the international community limit human and economic losses from COVID-19, a coronavirus disease, experts say.

US intelligence agencies are looking not only for accurate numbers, but also for any signs of political consequences of how these countries are trying to resolve the crisis.

“We want to have the most accurate real-time understanding of where global hotspots are and where they appear,” said Jeremy Conandijke, an expert at the Global Development Analytical Center, who led the US Office of Disaster Relief Abroad in the period from 2013 to 2017, in particular, during the fight against the Ebola epidemic.

“The world will not get rid of this thing until we get rid of it everywhere,” he said.

U.S. intelligence first started reporting coronavirus in January and warned lawmakers of an epidemic in Wuhan, China, where the disease appeared late last year, sources said they asked not to give their names to be able to talk about intelligence issues.

According to Reuters, the number of cases is now estimated at 740,000 in approximately 200 countries and territories, with the United States leading with 152,000 cases.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which controls 17 US intelligence services, declined to comment.

North Korea claims that she did not have a single case of the disease, despite the fact that it borders on China. However, Pyongyang asked international aid agencies to provide him with materials such as medical masks and test kits.

One American source said that “the US does not know anything about the magnitude of the problem in a tightly closed country.”

“This is a country with nuclear weapons, where everything that can destabilize the government will be of great interest to the United States,” said Conandike, who also led the US response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

More and more regions of the Russian Federation enter full quarantine due to an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus disease. To date, in Russia with a population of 147 million people, the number of infected has amounted to 1,836 people in 71 regions. Of these, 1.226 patients are in the capital.

Accurate information on the extent of the spread of coronavirus in Russia can be crucial, as it borders with 14 other countries and is a major trading and transportation hub.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited a lack of accurate information about Russia and Iran and accused China of a disinformation campaign, which Beijing denies.

China, which reported more than 81,000 cases and more than 3,300 deaths, said there were no new infections within the country. However, he remains wary of travelers returning from abroad.

According to one source, the US believes that statements by the Chinese authorities that there are no new infections “may be partly true.” At the same time, US intelligence agencies still do not believe that China has taken control of the virus, the source said.

However, according to Conandaike, despite the fact that Beijing has hidden the severity of the initial outbreak, now it does not seem to be manipulating numbers.

It seems that China “is the most successful country in terms of very large-scale growth and its rapid elimination,” Conandike said.

“If their number of cases is real, it is very important to understand their approach and adapt it,” he said.

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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.