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S. Korean diplomat says virus unlikely to destabilize N. Korea

Diplomacy 05:06 March 27, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, March 26 (Yonhap) -- A top South Korean diplomat in Washington said Thursday he does not believe the coronavirus pandemic will destabilize North Korea.

Moon Seoung-hyun, deputy chief of mission for the South Korean Embassy in Washington, made the remark during a virtual discussion with the Atlantic Council think tank on his country's widely praised response to COVID-19.

"In the case of North Korea, we have very limited information," he said, noting that some news outlets have reported that the country seems to be suffering from the highly contagious disease.

"We don't know how serious it is," he said. " I personally don't think North Korea will be destabilized, but they will manage to control their own situation."

Moon said the North's recent launching of short-range missiles was "definitely not the kind of wise options" amid the global crisis.

North Korea has not reported a single case of COVID-19, although many believe the country may be covering up an outbreak. North Korea's state media continue to report on the regime's tough quarantine measures in place to prevent an epidemic.

Moon said the global outbreak is unlikely to affect ongoing negotiations between Seoul and Washington to reach a cost-sharing agreement for the stationing of 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.

The two sides continue to talk to each other and exchange views through their negotiating teams, who last met in Los Angeles last week, he said.

"Hopefully I think we can find (a) good solution, which can be acceptable to both countries in the near future," he said, acknowledging that thousands of South Koreans employed by U.S. Forces Korea will be furloughed starting April 1 unless there is an agreement.

This screenshot shows Moon Seoung-hyun (L), deputy chief of mission for the South Korean Embassy in Washington, speaking during a virtual discussion on South Korea's response to COVID-19, with Oh Miyeon, director and senior fellow for the Asia Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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