FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Bill Barr, leads the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
SEOUL (Reuters) – President Donald Trump asked South Korea to send medical equipment to the United States to fight the coronavirus, promising to help Korean companies gain U.S. government approval, South Korea’s presidential office said.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in offered to send the equipment if his country has any spare, his Blue House office said in a statement late on Tuesday, after the 23 minute phone call, which it said was arranged at Trump’s urgent request.
The request for help highlights the diverging paths the two countries took since both discovered their first coronavirus cases on the same day.
South Korea rolled out widespread testing within days, swiftly launching an aggressive program to isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts.
After a big early outbreak, it won praise for slowing the spread of the disease with comparatively little disruption and just 125 deaths, and has brought the number of new infections per day to below 100 for the past 13 straight days.
The United States did little testing initially, and has now been shutting parts of the country en masse, with fast-growing outbreaks in a number of states and thousands of new cases per day.
Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.
Trump told Moon he would help Korean producers obtain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their equipment, the Korean statement said.
Reporting by Joori Roh; Writing by Peter Graff