(ATTN: UPDATES with details on UNICEF's aid in paras 5-9)
By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has remained unresponsive to South Korea's attempt to propose working-level consultations on its push to extend help to the neighbor in its fight against the COVID-19 outbreak for the third day, a ministry official here said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Unification had sought to deliver a related message to the North on Monday through their liaison office to hold the talks and offer assistance in medical supplies to the neighbor, known for its dilapidated medical system.
The two Koreas held a routine phone call at 9 a.m. Wednesday, but the North did not express its intention on whether it would accept the message, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"Nothing noteworthy was exchanged (during the call)," the official said.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said vaccine cold chain equipment for the North is "pending delivery," although it received a sanctions exemption from a related U.N. Security Council panel late last year.
"The cold chain equipment is pending delivery to the DPRK," Shima Islam, a UNICEF spokesperson, told Yonhap News Agency in an email without elaborating. "At this time, its purpose remains to support the regular immunization programme in the country." DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The U.N. North Korea sanctions committee had approved a yearlong exemption on the Chinese-made cold chain equipment on Nov. 30 last year with plans to ship it via the Chinese port of Dalian to the North's western port of Nampo, according to the committee's website.
In March, UNICEF said it was distributing humanitarian supplies, such as micronutrient treatments for pregnant women and new mothers, to health facilities in the North after they were released from months of quarantine at Nampo, following the reopening of its western sea routes in October last year.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, North Korea, with a population of 24 million, had reported more than 1.72 million fever cases and 62 fatalities.
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