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N. Korea asks China for help in fight against COVID-19: source

All News 23:10 May 15, 2022

BEIJING, May 15 (Yonhap) -- Hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, North Korea has asked China for assistance in its battle against the pandemic, a diplomatic source said Sunday.

The source, privy to details of Pyongyang-Beijing relations, said North Korea recently used its diplomatic channel to reach out to its neighbor for COVID-19 supplies and equipment, and talks between the two sides are ongoing.

It wasn't immediately clear specifically what North Korea is seeking.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, wearing a mask, receives a report while visiting the State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters in Pyongyang on May 12, 2022, in this photo captured from the North's Korean Central TV. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Last Thursday, North Korea said there had been an outbreak of the stealth omicron variant in the country, after more than two years of claiming to be free of COVID-19.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday offered to send COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies north of the border. The unification ministry then said Sunday it will propose working-level talks with North Korea as soon as possible to provide "practical help" in coronavirus response.

Pyongyang reported 15 additional deaths from the virus on Sunday, with nearly 300,000 more exhibiting fever symptoms.

The North Korea-China border remains closed due to the pandemic, but is expected to temporarily open once the two sides agree on specifics of China's assistance.

China said last week that it was prepared to offer full support for North Korea as necessary.

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