An independent UN human rights investigator said on Wednesday that the international community should develop a strategy to give North Korea at least 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to avoid a humanitarian calamity.
According to Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic Inhabitants’ Republic of Korea, the vaccinations might be a means to urge the regime to alleviate the lockdowns that have put some of the country’s 26 million people on the edge of famine.
North Korea is not believed to have imported any COVID-19 vaccines, and the COVAX worldwide COVID-19 vaccine-sharing scheme has reduced the number of doses available to the country, as per Reuters.
A South Korean think-tank said at the time, North Korea rejected planned shipments of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine coordinated under COVAX due to worries about adverse effects.
North Korea insists COVID-19 has not entered the country
According to UNICEF, Pyongyang also declined a Chinese company’s offer of 3 million COVID-19 vaccination shots. Pyongyang’s authorities were suspicious of getting just a portion number of vaccinations and then being pressured to take more, a situation that might be rectified by striking an agreement to give enough doses for the entire country, according to Ojea Quintana.
During meetings with international diplomats in Seoul, the UN investigator said he had raised the possibility of providing 60 million vaccines to North Korea, but that such a proposal had yet to be formally made to Pyongyang, and that a number of issues, including payments and any sanctions hurdles, would need to be worked out.
North Korea continues to assert that COVID-19 has never entered its territory, a claim that is highly disputed. However, the two-year closing of its border to practically all commerce and visitors stunned an economy already battered by decades of mismanagement and severe US-led sanctions over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs.
Quintana was one of the UN investigators who, in August of last year, sent a letter to North Korea’s leadership, requesting it to clarify if its military had been authorized to shoot on sight any trespassers who breach the country’s northern border in defiance of the country’s total ban. North Korea has made no public statements about the situation.
Per The Independent, North Korea reported to the World Health Organization on Feb. 3 that it had tested more than 54,180 persons for the coronavirus, but that all of the tests had come back negative.