- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2020

Kim Jong-un and other high-level members of the North Korean leader’s ruling regime have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by the Chinese government, according to a report citing Japanese intelligence.

The report Monday by the online publication “19FortyFive” claimed two Japanese intelligence sources said Mr. Kim and “multiple other” regime officials were given the vaccine “within the last two to three weeks.”

The sources, who spoke on condition of not being named, would not confirm which company inside China was the manufacturer of the vaccine. However, 19FortyFive cited Peter J. Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, as saying there are “at least 3-4 different Chinese vaccines in play.”

A report by CNBC over the weekend cited the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying China has five home-grown vaccine candidates in phase three trials. The network claimed Sinopharm, or China National Pharmaceutical Group, reportedly submitted an application to Chinese authorities last week seeking regulatory approval.

There are indications, meanwhile, that North Korean hackers seek to steal vaccine secrets from Western companies. Reuters reported last week that suspected North Korean hackers have tried to break into the systems of British drugmaker AstraZeneca in recent weeks as that company races to deploy its vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.

In a separate development, the South Korea-based publication NK News noted Monday that the three-year anniversary of North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test came and went over the weekend without a peep from DPRK state media.

The publication cited experts as saying Pyongyang’s silence over the Nov. 29, 2017, Hwasong-15 ICBM launch was a potential sign that the Kim regime is being cautious as it keeps a watchful eye on President-elect Joe Biden.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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