|President Moon Jae-in / Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
President Moon Jae-in has been actively engaging in summit diplomacy for international cooperation in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, with leaders from around the world having phone calls with him to seek Korea's knowhow on dealing with infections.
U.S. President Donald Trump requested Seoul's help with "medical supplies" needed to combat COVID-19 during a phone conversation with Moon late Tuesday evening, according to Cheong Wa Dae. The White House also confirmed in a statement that the two leaders discussed joint action against the coronavirus.
"The two leaders exchanged their concerns about the global spread of COVID-19 and discussed mutual cooperation to overcome the situation," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok said in a statement.
"President Trump asked about whether it would be possible for Korea to send medical supplies to the U.S. to support his country's response to the virus. In response, Moon said that he will provide maximum support if spare equipment was available."
The presidential office also noted that the 23-minute phone call, which was the first of the year between the leaders of Korea and the U.S., was made at Trump's request.
It is extremely rare for the U.S. to seek help from Korea on a medical issue. Trump's request is seen to reflect the gravity of the COVID-19 situation in the U.S., which has seen a swift rise in infections amid a shortage of medical supplies.
It was not immediately known after the phone call what kind of equipment Trump mentioned. But during a visit to Seegene, a local developer of COVID-19 diagnostic kits, Wednesday, Moon said that Trump had requested the shipment of test kits and products related to quarantine.
"More countries are requesting the diagnostic reagents at the government level. Yesterday, U.S. President Trump made a request for an urgent supply of test kits and quarantine-related equipment," Moon said.
Trump is the latest leader to call Moon seeking Korea's experience in responding to the infectious virus. Earlier on the same day, Moon talked with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the leader of Saudi Arabia, which will chair the G20 meeting this year. He has also had a series of phone conversations with prime ministers from Europe where the pandemic has spread rapidly, including Spain, France and Sweden.
The President underlined that Korea's effective and quick response to the COVID-19 outbreak is getting praise from the international community, adding many local producers are exporting test kits to other countries.
"Now, global cooperation is very much needed both in quarantine measures and for reinvigorating economies. The diagnostic capabilities of Korean companies will play a major role in global cooperation to combat COVID-19," Moon said.
Earlier this month, Moon suggested a teleconference among G20 states during his phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, and this will take place late Thursday. In the conference, Moon is expected to renew his call to ease travel restrictions for at least business travelers if they carry health certificates issued by their governments, a suggestion to support the failing economy of not only Korea but also the world.
The presidential office said Wednesday that a joint statement will be released after the G20 meeting on international cooperation for COVID-19 responses.