US analyst: North Korea’s Kim, family inoculated with experimental Chinese COVID-19 vaccine
A U.S. analyst said Tuesday that China gave North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his family an experimental coronavirus vaccine, according to a report from Reuters.
Harry Kazianis, an expert on North Korea at the Center for the National Interest think tank, said the Kims and multiple high-ranking North Korean officials received the vaccine. Kazianis said the information was gathered by anonymous Japanese intelligence members.
“Kim Jong Un and multiple other high-ranking officials within the Kim family and leadership network have been vaccinated for coronavirus within the last two to three weeks thanks to a vaccine candidate supplied by the Chinese government,” wrote Kazianis in an article for 19FortyFive.
It is unclear which company created the vaccines or whether they had been proven to be safe, according to the wire service.
Kazianis said three Chinese companies are developing a coronavirus vaccine: Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSinoBio and China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
Choi Jung-hun, an infectious disease expert who defected from North Korea, however, questioned Kazianis’s claim.
“Even if a Chinese vaccine had already been approved, no drug is perfect and he would not take that risk when he has numerous shelters which can ensure almost complete isolation,” said Choi.
East Asia analyst Michael Barry argued that Kim would be more likely to take a European coronavirus vaccine.
“The risk is too great. But he’s happy to get Chinese personal protective equipment,” Barry said on Twitter, according to Reuters.
Last week Reuters reported that suspected North Korean hackers had attempted to break into the systems of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca which recently announced its vaccine candidate to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
The attack is reportedly part of a widespread hacking campaign being carried out by North Korea.
The country has thus far not confirmed any coronavirus infections. However, it has appeared to have taken steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus. On Sunday, North Korean state media announced restrictions on entering its seawaters in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
According to South Korean intelligence, Kim has locked down the capital city of Pyongyang to combat the coronavirus. Kim is reportedly most concerned with the economic impact of the virus and has instructed overseas diplomats to avoid any actions that may provoke the U.S.