North communicates with UN in hopes of getting good jabs
North Korea has been communicating for months with the United Nations on receiving vaccine support, multiple sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“There were some communication on vaccine support, via the 'New York channel,' in October and November last year,” a source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.
The New York channel represents U.S. communications with North Korea through the North’s diplomatic mission at the United Nations in New York.
“The UN intends to support the North with around 60 million [vaccine] doses, and [the North Korean delegation in the UN] is said to have communicated this with those at the top in Pyongyang,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The 60 million doses will be enough to fully vaccinate North Korea's entire population.
The regime closed its borders at the start of the pandemic in January 2020 and has continued to maintain it has had zero Covid-19 cases.
It rejected, or responded in a lukewarm manner, to offers of vaccine support from various institutions.
Since last March, North Korea has been assigned 8.11 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the Covax Facility, the World Health Organization-led global vaccine-sharing mechanism, most of them being AstraZeneca vaccines.
Last July, Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said that North Korea has not been complying with the administrative steps required for the delivery of Covax-allocated vaccines.
Two months later, the country rejected the offer of nearly 3 million doses of Sinovac vaccines from Covax.
The country may have been biding its time for Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to a source.
“The North Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim Song is said to have asked the UN what type of vaccines the organization was thinking of supporting Pyongyang with,” said a source. “He is said to have asked if it was going to be Pfizer or Moderna.”
The source added that the type of vaccine, so far as they are aware, has not yet been decided on by the UN.
South Korean officials were allegedly involved in conversations in the United States on supporting the North with vaccines.
“When the South’s National Intelligence Service director Park Jie-won visited the United States in May last year, he is said to have met with senior-ranking officials in the U.S. government and suggested North-bound vaccine support,” a diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It is my understanding that it was after Park’s trip that the United States and the UN discussed the idea. The South Korean government is reviewing what role it should play, should UN-supported vaccines to the North be accepted.”
The U.S. Joe Biden administration officials have often been quoted in the media for their willingness to share coronavirus vaccines and other humanitarian assistance to help North Korea combat the pandemic.
The administration has at the same time maintained that it will not be giving incentives to the North, such as sanctions relief, just for the sake of resuming dialogues.
Pyongyang has refused to engage in denuclearization talks with Washington since 2019, when the summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fell through without an accord.
BY JEONG YONG-SOO, ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]