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(LEAD) S. Korea sends 2 million face masks to U.S. to help fight COVID-19

All News 09:50 May 11, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS U.S. ambassador's message in paras 6-7)

SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday sent 2 million face masks in emergency assistance to the United States to help its fight against the new coronavirus, the foreign ministry said.

The provision of the masks came after President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the two countries' cooperation in battling the COVID-19 pandemic during phone talks on March 24.

A U.S. cargo flight carrying the masks was set to arrive in the United States on Monday, the ministry said. The supplies will be distributed to medical institutions at the vanguard of the anti-virus campaign.

"The provision followed comprehensive considerations, such as our country's domestic COVID-19 situation and the local supply and demand for masks, and the need for support for our ally, the U.S.," the ministry said in a press release.

"We hope that South Korea and the U.S. will quickly overcome the shared challenge of the COVID-19 disease through this support, and this can contribute to sharing Korea's quarantine experience with the international community," it added.

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris expressed gratitude for the mask provision.

"A BIG thank you to ROK and @TheBlueHouseKR for providing 2 million face masks to @fema. Our alliance and friendship are as vital and ironclad today as it was 70 years ago," he said in a tweet.

It is not the first time that Korea has offered humanitarian aid to the U.S. Seoul sent US$5 million to the U.S. when the country was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma struck the U.S. in 2017, Korea sent $2 million.

Masks are loaded onto a U.S. cargo plane at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, in this photo provided by the foreign ministry on May 11, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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