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Unification ministry vows to seek health care cooperation with N.K.

All Headlines 16:29 March 03, 2020

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry vowed Tuesday to seek cooperation with North Korea to tackle the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

Healthcare cooperation was a key focus of the ministry's annual policy plan reported to the office of President Moon Jae-in. The plan was reported in writing, without a face-to-face session, due to coronavirus concerns.

The ministry also pledged to seek other reconciliation and exchange projects with the North, such as individual trips to the communist nation and a proposal to transform the demilitarized zone (DMZ) into a peace zone.

"We will foster and promote ways for the two Koreas to cooperate in areas such as healthcare, natural disasters, forestry and environmental issues," the ministry said in the report.

"The ministry will push for inter-Korean cooperation in preventing epidemics, such as African swine fever and aviation influenza, through cooperation with local governments and nongovernmental organizations both at home and abroad."

The plan came a day after the North fired two projectiles, believed to be short-range ballistic missiles, off its east coast, raising concerns it will further strain the already soured inter-Korean relations.

On Sunday, President Moon Jae-in proposed health care cooperation with the North in an address commemorating the 1919 Independence Movement, saying the Korean people would be "safer" when the two sides respond together to infectious diseases and disasters in border areas, as well as climate change on the Korean Peninsula.

Prospects of the ministry's plans for inter-Korean exchanges remain unclear as the North has stayed mum on Seoul's calls for cooperation in inter-Korean projects, including measures to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus.

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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