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US lawmaker urges Biden to consider providing COVID vaccines to N. Korea

Rep. Tom Suozzi (at podium) of New York's 3rd Congressional District speaks in a ceremony in Washington, to mark the passage of a US House resolution highlighting the importance of the South Korea-US alliance. (Yonhap)
Rep. Tom Suozzi (at podium) of New York's 3rd Congressional District speaks in a ceremony in Washington, to mark the passage of a US House resolution highlighting the importance of the South Korea-US alliance. (Yonhap)
WASHINGTON -- A US lawmaker has called on President Joe Biden to consider providing COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea as a way of improving relations between the two countries, an informed source said Tuesday.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) also urged Biden to consider providing additional vaccine support to South Korea in a letter to the president, according to Kim Min-sun, president of the New York-based Museum of Korean American Heritage.

"Because of your administration's work to secure over 1 billion vaccine doses, the United States has a sufficient supply to meet our country's current demand and is in a position to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Korean Peninsula," he said in the letter, dated Sept. 2.

"This assistance could have the added benefit of fostering a less hostile and adversarial relationship between our nation and North Korea," he added, also noting COVAX has already allocated 3 million doses of Chinese-made Sinovac for North Korea but the allotted doses will not be enough for such a large country.

North Korea claims to remain COVID-19 free while maintaining a strict border control since early last year.

Suozzi's letter to the president comes after US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim said the United States may consider providing humanitarian assistance to the North if requested by Pyongyang.

The North remains silent on such offers and also continues to ignore US overtures for dialogue.

The US lawmaker also called for increased support for South Korea.

"While the situation has improved since May, South Korea still lags behind countries like the United States in its vaccination rate and faces the possibility of running out prior to administering second doses to those who have received initial ones," he wrote.

"In an effort to increase vaccination and forge a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, I urge you to explore options to provide additional vaccine doses to South and North Korea," said Suozzi.

He noted one option was to provide "excess doses" to South Korea and let the US ally return them to the US when its manufacturing and procurement situation improves.

The US has provided 1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to South Korea as part of support promised by Biden in his bilateral summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Washington in May. (Yonhap)

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