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Foreign ministry denies reports linking vaccine cooperation with U.S. to Quad participation

Diplomacy 18:19 April 23, 2021

SEOUL, April 23 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry on Friday denied media reports speculating that South Korea was not included on the U.S. list of potential foreign vaccine support because it has taken a negative stance about joining the U.S.-led Quad forum.

Major local dailies carried such reports, quoting the remarks by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday (local time) that the U.S. is willing to help other countries with vaccine supplies but it is more focused right now on first containing the disease domestically.

Explaining the U.S. position, Price mentioned Canada and Mexico as the countries with whom Washington has discussed vaccine arrangements, along with the Quad, a regional forum involving Japan, India and Australia.

The reports also cited the outcome of the U.S.-hosted Quad Vaccine Experts' Group that took place this week, in which it pledged efforts to make at least one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available globally by the end of next year.

They, in particular, blamed the government for being unable to secure U.S. help with the vaccines because Seoul has remained reserved about joining the Quad forum seen aimed at keeping China's influence in check.

On Friday, the foreign ministry rebutted the reports as "not true."

"The Quad vaccine cooperation is intended to accelerate vaccine production and support underdeveloped countries," the ministry said in a message to press. "Certain media reports claiming that U.S.' foreign provision of its surplus vaccines is related to the Quad participation are not true."

Possible vaccine cooperation with Washington has drawn attention in Korea after Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong revealed early this week that Seoul has been seriously discussing the matter with the ally, including a "vaccine swap deal".

Chung has expressed hope that the U.S. will help Korea address its vaccine shortages just as Seoul helped its ally last year by providing test kits and face masks. Chung later said that Washington has explained to Seoul there is yet little room for sharing its stock at this stage.

elly@yna.co.kr
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