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Moon Jae-in says South Korea could supply COVID-19 vaccines to North

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen hold a joint press conference following their summit at The Hofburg in Vienna, Austria, on Monday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen hold a joint press conference following their summit at The Hofburg in Vienna, Austria, on Monday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

June 14 (UPI) -- Seoul will seek to supply COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea if the South becomes a global vaccine hub, President Moon Jae-in said Monday.

Moon, the first South Korean leader to visit Austria, said at a joint press conference with President Alexander Van der Bellen that the South would first need the North's permission before vaccines are delivered, Korean newspaper Maeil Business reported.

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"If North Korea agrees, we will actively promote cooperation in the supply of vaccines," Moon said.

The president said that if South Korea becomes a global vaccine hub, North Korea will naturally become a partner for cooperation.

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"The United States also is actively supporting humanitarian cooperation with North Korea," Moon said. "Just because high-income countries take the lead in vaccinations, that alone won't save us from the coronavirus."

The South Korean leader said his country will become a global vaccine manufacturing center because of a global partnership agreement with the United States.

Van der Bellen, who assumed office after defeating Austria's far-right candidate in 2016, said that developing nations like North Korea must be supplied with the COVID-19 vaccine.

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The Austrian leader said while data is lacking on COVID-19 in the North, his government stands ready to help, the report said.

Moon is in Vienna after the Biden administration said it is purchasing 500 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine to donate to low-income countries.

A spokesperson for international vaccine alliance GAVI said Friday that North Korea is included on a list of recipient countries for the Pfizer vaccine, Voice of America's Korean service reported.

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Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, had said the United States is working with the World Health Organization's COVAX facility to supply 92 COVAX recipients and eight other African Union countries on vaccine allocation. The administration did not mention North Korea by name.

Pyongyang has not responded to the South's offers of joint cooperation.

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