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U.S. has offered to help N. Korea against virus: official

All News 01:11 March 12, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States has offered its assistance to North Korea to help deal with any outbreak of coronavirus there, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

Robert Destro, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, told reporters that he was unaware of any COVID-19 cases in the North.

"But we also know that North Korea is a very closed society. Information is very hard to come by," he said at a briefing to unveil the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

"I do know that our government has reached out to North Korea, to Iran and to China, to everybody and said, 'Look, to the extent that we can be useful, we will try to be useful and provide assistance,'" Destro added. "We've done that in any number of occasions."

North Korea has yet to report any coronavirus infections, but the country has been on virtual lockdown and urged its people to wear masks and step up personal hygiene as a precautionary measure against the disease.

Last month, the State Department expressed the United States' deep concern about the vulnerability of the North Korean people to a coronavirus outbreak and offered to facilitate the approval of assistance from U.S. and international aid organizations.

People in protective clothing sterilize an unidentified facility in North Korea to keep the new coronavirus from spreading, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on Feb. 15, 2020. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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