US to help South Korea get flu drugs to North despite stalled nuclear talks

Published: December 22, 2018 13:39:00 | Updated: December 26, 2018 13:24:19


US special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon leave after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, December 21, 2018. Reuters photo

The United States has agreed to help South Korea send flu medication to North Korea, a South Korean official said on Friday, after the United States said it would help deliver aid to the North despite stalled nuclear talks.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to work toward denuclearisation at a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June but the two sides have made little progress.

North Korea raised new doubts about a nuclear agreement on Thursday when its state media said any deal on it giving up its nuclear arsenal had to include the complete elimination of US “nuclear threats”.

While the United States and North Korea joust over a nuclear deal, South Korea is keen to improve ties with its old rival and has been taking steps to establish links in various areas including transport and humanitarian assistance.

There has been some US concern that the South may be moving too quickly on building such links, given the scant progress on denuclearisation.

Despite that, Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, said on Wednesday as he arrived in South Korea for talks that he would be looking with aid groups at how to deliver “appropriate assistance” to the North, particularly in the winter.

South Korea’s special representative for Korean peace and security affairs, Lee Do-hoon, said after talks with Biegun on Thursday the United States agreed to help supply the North with the flu drug Tamiflu.

“The issue of providing Tamiflu to the North Korean people was resolved,” Lee told reporters.

South Korea provided 500,000 doses of Tamiflu to the North in 2009 following an outbreak of H1N1 influenza, reports Reuters.

The Red Cross said in January this year that more than 81,000 North Koreans were affected by the same virus also known as swine flu.

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