1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea hosted the 4th virtual meeting on Northeast Asia Cooperation for Health Security (NEACHS) on the evening of August 31.
o The meeting upgraded the participation level from director to director-general level, bringing together director-general level officials of the foreign and health ministries of the Republic of Korea, the United States of America, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Russian Federation, Mongolia, as well as their respective diplomats stationed at embassies in the Republic of Korea.
※ The Outline of NEACHS
- NEACHS is a regional cooperative initiative to strengthen joint response capacity for transboundary health security issues, including COVID-19 and other new infectious diseases.
- The initiative, proposed by President Moon Jae-in in his keynote speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2020, was launched as a track 1.5 virtual meeting on December 29, 2020. The meeting brought together diplomatic and health officials and academic experts from the Republic of Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, and Mongolia.
- The second and third virtual meetings were held in the form of track one among diplomatic and health officials on March 30, 2021 and May 27, 2021, respectively. The participants discussed ways to strengthen the momentum for developing the initiative of NEACHS through implementing signature cooperation projects and adopting the Terms of Reference of NEACHS.
2. In his welcome remarks, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choi Jongmoon underscored the ever-increasing importance of solidarity and cooperation among countries amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, he suggested that NEACHS countries continue working together to establish a sustainable framework for partnership, accumulate exemplary cases of cooperation, and explore and implement new projects. He remarked that NEACHS would become a hub for health security cooperation in Northeast Asia through such joint efforts.
o Furthermore, he requested NEACHS countries to work together to encourage the participation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea so that NEACHS could contribute to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
3. The participants assessed that NEACHS had developed cooperation projects in more detail through two director-level meetings since the launch of NEACHS at the end of last year. Based on the discussions thus far, the participants agreed to accelerate the joint efforts to yield tangible outcomes, including the gradual expansion of the medical supplies reserve system, a webinar for joint capacity building programs for personnel in charge of COVID-19 response, and the adoption of a “blueprint for ensuring essential cross-border travel through fast-track entry protocols during a pandemic.”
o In this regard, participants extended appreciation to the recent pilot operation of the medical supplies reserve system for public health emergencies between the Republic of Korea and Mongolia. They agreed to the idea of gradually expanding the system into other participating countries. In addition, they agreed to continue exploring other various new projects to strengthen the momentum for health security cooperation within the framework of NEACHS.
4. Meanwhile, in the run-up to the forth NEACHS meeting, the fourth track two virtual meeting was held on August 30, bringing together academic experts from participating countries, presided by Ambassador for Global Health Security Lee Jong-gu. The opinions of related experts will be used as the groundwork for the future development of NEACHS.
* The track two virtual meetings were held on December 28, 2020 and June 4, 2021.
5. As the first one to upgrade the participation level to the director-general level, this meeting served as a good chance to strengthen cooperation in the health security sector among countries in the region.
o The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea will continue to make endeavors for the more concrete and sustainable development of NEACHS through accelerating the implementation of signature cooperation projects and adopting the Terms of References within this year.