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Reports: North Korea ignored China, Russia COVID-19 vaccine offers

North Korea’s closest partners, including China, offered COVID-19 vaccines, but Pyongyang did not respond, Seoul’s spy agency said, according to South Korean lawmakers. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korea’s closest partners, including China, offered COVID-19 vaccines, but Pyongyang did not respond, Seoul’s spy agency said, according to South Korean lawmakers. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 17 (UPI) -- North Korea snubbed offers of COVID-19 vaccines developed in China and Russia, according to Seoul's spy agency.

In a report to South Korea's National Assembly intelligence committee, Seoul's National Intelligence Service allegedly said there is evidence Beijing and Moscow, Pyongyang's closest partners, approached North Korea with vaccine offers, Yonhap and Herald Business reported Wednesday.

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North Korea reportedly did not respond to the propositions, a sign the regime could be skeptical about the Chinese and Russian vaccines, according to the report.

Chinese developer Sinovac's vaccine was revealed in January to have an efficacy rate of about 50% in trials. In December, Russian firms claimed their Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine had a 91.4% efficacy rate.

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Most developed nations are opting for vaccines from U.S. firms like Pfizer and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, however.

On Wednesday, the South Korean report on North Korea did not confirm whether China and Russia offered domestic vaccines free of charge to Pyongyang. A South Korean ruling party lawmaker told Herald Business because the "safety of vaccines made in China and Russia was not guaranteed, North Korea probably took on a cautious attitude" toward the products.

Ha Tae-kyung, an opposition party lawmaker, told Yonhap after the report was released that Seoul's NIS also said it is likely Kim Jong Un and his family have not been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. NIS sources said they could not corroborate Ha's statement, according to Yonhap.

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Kim was seen Tuesday visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to observe his late father Kim Jong Il's 79th birthday. In state media reports, Kim was referred to as "president" for the first time, a title that has been reserved for founder Kim Il Sung, according to Yonhap.

"The North appears to have replaced 'chairman' with 'president' for Kim, given that the latter is considered to have more representation in the world as head of state," said South Korean analyst Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

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