SKorea calls for joint efforts with North Korea

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South Korea has repeated calls for joint efforts with North Korea to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which it sees as a potential opportunity to improve strained bilateral relations.

A South Korean presidential official, who refused to be named during a background briefing on Tuesday, said Seoul doesn’t expect the possible anti-virus efforts to clash with international sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who held three rounds of peace talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, earlier said joint anti-virus efforts could provide a new opportunity for inter-Korean engagement.

But the North has been ignoring the South’s calls after it virtually shut down all cooperation with its rival in past months amid faltering nuclear talks with the Trump administration. The North in late January closed an inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong over virus concerns.

The North has said there hasn’t been a single virus case on its territory, but the claim is questioned by many outside experts.

Edwin Salvador, the World Health Organization’s representative to North Korea, said in an email to AP last week that the country reported that it tested 740 people for COVID-19 as of April 17 but that all came out negative.

He said the North also said it so far released more than 25,000 people from quarantine since Dec. 31.

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