(Bloomberg) -- Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations blamed North Korea’s push for weapons of mass destruction for the humanitarian situation in the country, as state media reported more than 170,000 new cases in a worsening fever outbreak.

In a joint statement Saturday following a meeting in northern Germany, the G-7 ministers expressed their grave concern about the situation in North Korea, which they said is the result of the choice “to prioritize its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs over the welfare of its own people.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier Saturday called a spreading fever outbreak “the big upheaval since the nation’s founding,” and state media reported more than 170,000 new cases with 21 deaths. Kim has ordered a lockdown of major cities since the country said this week it had identified a Covid-19 case within its borders.

Until Thursday, North Korea had denied it had any Covid cases, a claim questioned by experts in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. It has also refused vaccines from other countries.

The G-7 foreign ministers urged the government “to facilitate access for international humanitarian organizations for the delivery of urgently required humanitarian goods such as food and medicines and for independent assessment of humanitarian needs as soon as possible.”

The ministers said they “strongly condemn the continued testing of ballistic missiles” by North Korea, and reiterated their demand that the country “abandon its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, and any other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.”

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