|Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a teleconference with her counterparts from Japan and China, Friday. Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
Teleconferencing is becoming the primary means of maintaining high-level diplomacy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held a video conference with her counterparts from Japan and China.
Kang had a teleconference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to discuss cooperation in response to the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was the first "meeting" the foreign ministers of the three countries have held since the coronavirus outbreak.
"Responding to COVID-19 is a key area of cooperation for our three countries," Kang said at the beginning of the teleconference. "We need to share our concerns about the reduced exchanges between the peoples of our countries and consult on ways to minimize the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic."
"This meeting will strengthen momentum for closer trilateral cooperation and communication by sharing the experiences of our three countries regarding COVID-19," the South Korean foreign minister added.
More than 170 countries and territories are enforcing restrictions on people travelling from South Korea due to the rapid spread of the infectious disease.
On the instructions of President Moon Jae-in, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been consulting with other countries to ease entry restrictions for people travelling on businesses with medical certificates proving they do not have the coronavirus. This matter was discussed during the three-way teleconference.
"We emphasized that it was undesirable to reduce essential economic activities due to COVID-19. In the face of the severe economic downturn, we underlined that it is necessary to recognize an exception for businesspeople from the entry restrictions," a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters.
President Moon Jae-in has highlighted the importance of teleconferencing with world leaders to coordinate responses to the virus which is feared will trigger a global recession.
During a recent phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, Moon suggested a G20 teleconference to discuss responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The presidential office said that negotiations were underway among the relevant authorities to set a date for this.
Saudi Arabia, which chairs the G20 this year, announced March 17 that an extraordinary session will be held next week. "The G20 will act, alongside international organizations, in any way deemed necessary to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. G20 Leaders will put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy," it said.
As the President has been directing his energy and attention to the fight against the novel coronavirus, he has had to alter his diplomatic schedule. Last month, he canceled planned trips to the UAE, Turkey and Egypt.
Instead he has been holding phone conversations with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Feb. 20, and Macron, March 13. On Friday, Moon also spoke with Swedish President Stefan Lofven.