The U.S. has offered vaccines to both North Korea and China, and is prepared to do so immediately, U.S. President Joe Biden said on May 21 .
However, neither country has responded to the offer, he added.
In addition, a meeting with North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is contingent on whether he is “sincere” and whether the meeting will be “serious”, he said.
Made remarks at a joint press conference with South Korea’s president
Biden was speaking at a joint press conference with South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, as part of his five-day visit to both South Korea and Japan, according to The Washington Post .
He made his remarks in response to a question from an American journalist who asked if there were any preconditions to meeting North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un or providing the country with vaccines.
The journalist noted that there had been no mention of preconditions for these matters in the joint statement that Biden and Yoon issued.
Both leaders had condemned North Korea’s “escalatory missile tests” in their joint statement, including multiple launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), as “clear violations” of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council.
The statement highlighted:
“The two Presidents share the view that the DPRK's nuclear program presents a grave threat not only to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula but also the rest of Asia and the world.”
The two presidents also reiterated their common goal of the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and called on North Korea to return to negotiations.
Yoon: North Korea should respond to South Korea’s offer of assistance positively
The press conference also saw Yoon call on North Korea to respond positively to South Korea’s offer of assistance.
Yoon said, “Currently, North Korea is struggling with a Covid-19 crisis. Putting aside political and military considerations, I am more than willing to provide assistance from humanitarian and human rights perspectives.”
Yoon also called on North Korea to begin taking “practical steps” towards denuclearisation, with the promise of presenting a plan to help the hermetic country improve the standard of living for its people.
As per South Korea’s president:
“The door to dialogue remains open if North Korea genuinely embarks upon denuclearisation. In partnership with the international community, I am prepared to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen its economy and improve the quality of life for its people.”
How bad is North Korea’s Covid-19 outbreak?
On May 22, the country’s state media reported a “positive trend” with the number of new fever cases falling below 200,000 to 186,090 between May 20 and 21.
On Monday, May 23, North Korea reported 167,650 new cases of fever, according to Yonhap News Agency (YNA), which cited North Korean state media, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
However, experts suspect the actual number of cases is higher than what North Korea reported.
According to YNA, North Korea reported its first Covid-19 case on May 12 after declaring that it was free of the virus for two years.
On May 15, Rodong Sinmun , the official paper of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, reported that Kim convened an emergency state meeting in which he slammed officials for their “irresponsible work attitude” as well as the organisation and execution of their response.
North Korea has not accepted South Korea’s offer of help.
It has also rejected vaccines offered by the World Health Organisation’s Covax programme, with international monitoring requirements highlighted as a likely factor.
Most recently, however, South Korean media reported that North Korea had picked up medical supplies from China, as Air Koryo flights were seen flying to and fro China for the first time in two years, Reuters reported.
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