South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol Monday reiterated a willingness to support North Korea with necessary medical supplies and medicines to help it battle its ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
"I have repeatedly been saying that I'll always be open to humanitarian aid regardless of political or military issues that lie between South and North Korea," Yoon said during his first policy speech at the National Assembly after taking office last week.
North Korea has seen a surge in suspected coronavirus cases, and its state media said more than 392,900 new cases of fever were reported during the 24 hours through late Sunday afternoon.
Kwon Young Se, who was inaugurated Monday as Unification Minister, echoed the new leader's view, saying, "Our government is planning to actively cooperate with North Korea regarding the control of the coronavirus."
Kwon urged North Korea to be responsive so that the damage to its health care system could be mitigated.
The new minister vowed to focus on calming political tensions that have escalated following a series of missile tests by the North this year to improve inter-Korean ties and achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula based on North Korea's denuclearization.
On Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons, Yoon said South Korea is aware of preparations for a nuclear test in the North and that "sustainable peace" should be pursued through a virtuous cycle of cross-border confidence building as well as the denuclearization of the North.
During the speech, Yoon also said that on the agenda for his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday will be discussions about a U.S.-proposed engagement initiative in the Indo-Pacific region.
Yoon said he and Biden "will discuss ways to strengthen cooperation on the global supply chain through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework."
Amid the United State's absence from major free-trade agreements in the region, the Biden administration is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework soon. The framework would promote trade, govern the digital economy and improve supply-chain resiliency.
Yoon made no mention of Japan in the speech.
The president urged lawmakers to approve his administration's first extra budget -- 59.4 trillion won ($46 billion) in spending, mainly focused on helping small-business owners hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yoon took office Tuesday and held his first Cabinet meeting on Thursday. A public opinion survey released Friday showed that 60 percent of South Koreans believe he will do well during his five-year term, a more pessimistic expectation than his recent predecessors.
Yoon and his government are set to face their first test on June 1, when local elections are held across the country along with parliamentary by-elections.