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Moon’s ‘telephone diplomacy’ continues in wake of pandemic

WHO chief requests Korea’s support for pandemic in Africa

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in continued telephone conversations with foreign leaders on Tuesday, in a sign of the bolstered profile of the country amid the deepening global COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, he spoke with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and President Andrzej Duba of Poland, continuing the series of telephone conversations.

Moon has spoken with leaders of 19 countries since Feb. 20, when he held a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The other leaders include US President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Peru.

For the most part, the conversations have revolved around Korea’s response to COVID-19 and the locally developed test kits that have gained attention around the world.

On Monday, Moon held a telephone conversation with World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The WHO chief requested Seoul’s support in battling the pandemic, and Moon is scheduled to give a keynote speech in the World Health Assembly, which will be held via video conference.

“(The keynote speech) will be a good opportunity for the world to share Korea’s experience in dealing with COVID-19 spread,” the WHO chief was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae. According to Seoul’s presidential office, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa are also scheduled to speak at the event.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, the WHO chief also requested the Korean government’s support in providing materials and equipment to sub-Saharan nations.

In Monday’s conversation, the WHO chief also praised Seoul’s response to the pandemic, and asked Moon to work to have other countries take Korea’s comprehensive approach to the pandemic. Advantages of Korea’s response cited by the WHO chief include aggressive testing and contact tracing.

Moon is said to have agreed with the WHO chief on the need for international cooperation.

“Response to COVID-19 was discussed in conversations with leaders of 20 or so countries. (South Korea) plans to provide the know-how and quarantine equipment requested by the countries as much as the situation allows,” Moon was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok.

In a separate development, Cheong Wa Dae on Tuesday denied reports that a visit by China’s Xi has been postponed.

Earlier in the day, a local daily reported that the trip has been postponed to the second half of the year, with the two sides agreeing “not to hurry.”

Cheong Wa Dae, however, said that the report was a “serious distortion of truth” and that the two sides are working to arrange the trip at an early date. 

By Choi He-suk (