Asia Minute: North Korea’s vaccine plans are unclear now that it says COVID is in the country
COVID cases are increasing in parts of the world, including Hawaiʻi. Now even North Korea admits the virus has made it into the country. But now attention is shifting to a different issue: how to deal with it.
Back in December 2020, South Korea’s Foreign Minister said what many were thinking when he observed it was “hard to believe” there were no COVID-19 cases in North Korea — a remark government officials in Pyongyang immediately called “impudent.”
It’s hard to know much of anything about North Korea with certainty, but media coverage in South Korea speculates the current publicity may be a prelude to seeking international help — especially with vaccines.
The World Health Organization’s vaccine-sharing mechanism is called COVAX.
North Korea has repeatedly turned down vaccine donations from that group.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed that out Thursday, and said the U.S. has no immediate plans to share vaccines with North Korea.
In March, Covax offered more than 8 million doses to the country — which were declined.
While China is the closest thing North Korea has to an ally, Pyongyang is reported not to be interested in Chinese COVID vaccines — which have proven less effective than others.
South Korea’s Joong Ang Daily reports the North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. asked what kind of vaccines that group might send to Pyongyang.
It quotes a source as saying, “He is said to have asked if it was going to be Pfizer or Moderna.”