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(3rd LD) U.S. Amb. Harris 'very impressed' by S. Korea's fight against COVID-19

All News 22:22 March 04, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 12-14, photo)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said Wednesday that he was "very impressed" by Seoul's efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, as the two countries step up coordination in combating the epidemic.

Harris made the remarks during a meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young amid rising concerns that the United States could toughen quarantine measures against South Korean visitors as the Asian country has logged a total of 5,621 confirmed cases and 33 deaths.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is watching the coronavirus outbreak in Korea "very closely," and that his government will make the "right determination at the right time."

"I think it's indicative of the fact that Korea's leading in the global fight," Harris said after Cho expressed his appreciation for making a "fair case" in Washington for Seoul's containment efforts.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young (R) and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris hold talks at the foreign ministry in Seoul on March 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

"We're very impressed with all that Korea's doing. Comprehensive measures, the tests, and take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19," the U.S. ambassador added.

Harris recently attended a global conference in Washington of the chiefs of U.S. diplomatic missions.

Cho pointed out that during Harris' absence in Korea, there has been a spike in coronavirus cases, while calling for joint efforts to handle the public health emergency.

"Sure. I think coordination between our two countries is very important and is, you know, causing good results," Harris said in turn.

At the meeting, Cho explained Korea's all-out efforts to contain the epidemic and asked the U.S. government to maintain its trust in Seoul's quarantine efforts and capacity, the foreign ministry said in a press release.

Cho also asked the U.S. to continuously maintain cooperation in ensuring that people-to-people exchanges between the two countries are not seriously affected by the outbreak.

Harris said in turn that he would continue to trust Seoul's efforts for "active and comprehensive" responses to the epidemic, according to the ministry.

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The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, the ministry said, adding that the two greeted each other with an elbow bump instead of a handshake.

Later in the day, Harris wrote on his Twitter that they discussed "strong continued cooperation to defeat COVID19."

"We remain confident in the South Korean government's robust and comprehensive response efforts to limit the spread of the virus," he said on Twitter.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. had reported more than 100 infections and nine deaths connected to the novel virus.

On Saturday the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for Daegu, the city at the center of the outbreak in South Korea, to the highest level, urging Americans not to travel there.

The rest of South Korea is under the second-highest travel advisory, which urges Americans to reconsider travel to the country.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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