South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday he is willing to provide COVID-19 vaccine aid to North Korea if the isolated country agrees.
Moon made the remarks during a joint news conference with Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen following a summit meeting in Vienna on Monday.
Moon told reporters if South Korea becomes a regional hub for COVID-19 vaccine production, “North Korea will surely become one of the countries for [vaccine] cooperation. If North Korea agrees, we will actively proceed with vaccine aid to North Korea. The U.S. government is also actively supporting humanitarian aid to North Korea."
At a joint news conference in Washington last month, U.S. President Joe Biden said he and Moon remained deeply concerned about the situation with North Korea. Biden said he would deploy a new special envoy to North Korea to help renew relations.
In his comments Monday, Moon said Biden’s announcement “sent a strong message that he wants talks with North Korea. We are hoping that North Korea responds to this.”
Moon also said that Biden expressed his support for inter-Korean talks and cooperation, which Moon said he believes could help lead to new talks between the U.S. and North Korea. According to the Associated Press, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said in recent speeches that a combination of COVID-19, economic sanctions and natural disasters has the country facing one of its worst ever situations.
Moon and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met Monday with reporters following bilateral talks. The Korea Herald reported that Moon’s visit was the first to the country by a Korean leader since the two nations established formal ties in 1892. Moon arrived Sunday following the G-7 summit in Britain.