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COVID-19 vaccines for South Korea's military being discussed, Pentagon says

The United States and South Korea agreed Friday to provided 550,000 COVID-19 vaccines to South Korean military personnel. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
The United States and South Korea agreed Friday to provided 550,000 COVID-19 vaccines to South Korean military personnel. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- The Pentagon confirmed discussions are ongoing with South Korea about the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for 550,000 South Korean service members, including time and point of delivery.

U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby said Monday at a press briefing that the military backs President Joe Biden's vaccine initiatives.

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"Obviously we support the president's direction here to provide vaccines to our [South Korean] allies," Kirby said.

"We're still working through the details of how that's going to occur. It'll come out of U.S. stockpiles, but ... the details on when, where, how it get distributed, I think we're still working our way through that right now."

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Kirby's statement comes after Biden said Friday during a joint summit press conference that more than half a million South Korean troops are to be vaccinated because of their close interaction with U.S. soldiers on the peninsula.

Kirby said Monday it is in the U.S. national interest to offer South Korean military personnel vaccines, according to Radio Free Asia's Korean service.

Analysts previously have said the two sides are to resume large-scale exercises this summer. On Tuesday Kirby did not deny the drills could take place.

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"Training with our [South Korean] allies is a significant component of our ability to meet our treaty commitments to South Korea," the Pentagon spokesman said.

Biden and Moon met for the first time on Friday at the White House. Regional security may have been a priority for both sides. The summit joint statement had mentioned support for stability in the Taiwan Strait -- a move that has drawn a response from China.

Kirby said that the reference to Taiwan-related matters does not reflect a new U.S. policy.

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"Our approach hasn't changed," he said. "We will continue to assist Taiwan in its self defense as we have in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. Nothing's changed with our policy with respect to Taiwan and I'd leave it to South Korea to speak to it from their perspective."

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Seoul's position on the relationship between China and Taiwan is "unchanged," according to Yonhap Tuesday.

China has warned against "foreign interference" on Taiwan.

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