UN probe: Both Koreas violate armistice in gunfire exchange

The DMZ, which was established as a buffer at the end of the Korean War, is a de facto border separating North and South Korea. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2020

UN probe: Both Koreas violate armistice in gunfire exchange

  • The gunfire exchange was the first shooting inside the Korean Demilitarized Zone in about 2½ years
  • There were no known casualties on either side

SEOUL, South Korea: A UN investigation into a recent exchange of gunfire between the two Koreas has determined that both countries violated the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, the American-led UN Command said Tuesday.
The May 3 gunfire exchange was the first shooting inside the Korean Demilitarized Zone in about 2½ years, but there were no known casualties on either side.
The DMZ, which was established as a buffer at the end of the Korean War, is a de facto border separating North and South Korea. It is officially jointly overseen by North Korea and the UN Command.
The UN Command said in a statement that a multinational special investigation team led the probe with the full cooperation of the South Korean military. It said it invited North Korea to provide information on the incident but the country hasn’t offered a formal response.
The investigation ruled that North Korea breached the armistice by firing four rounds and South Korea by returning fire, according to the statement. It said the investigation was unable to determine if the North Korean rounds were fired intentionally or by mistake.
The UN Command said the terms of the armistice agreement are in place to minimize the risk of incidents such as gunfire exchange.
South Korean officials earlier said they fired warning shots toward North Korea after four bullets fired by the North hit one of its front-line guard posts.
Unlike its name, the DMZ is the world’s most heavily fortified border, guarded by mines, barbed wire fences and combat troops on both sides. Gunfire exchanges inside the DMZ are not unusual, but no deadly clashes have occurred in recent years. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea.
The recent incident came amid a deadlock in negotiations between North Korean and US officials on the North’s nuclear weapons program.


UK to host ‘human challenge’ trials for COVID-19 vaccines

Updated 37 min 26 sec ago

UK to host ‘human challenge’ trials for COVID-19 vaccines

  • So-called “challenge trials” are expected to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London
  • About 2,000 participants had signed up through a US-based advocacy group, 1Day Sooner

LONDON: Britain is planning to host clinical trials where volunteers are deliberately infected with the new coronavirus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people involved in the project.
So-called “challenge trials” are expected to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London, the report said, adding that about 2,000 participants had signed up through a US-based advocacy group, 1Day Sooner.
Britain said it was working with partners on the potential for human challenge trials without commenting on a specific plan.
“We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a COVID-19 vaccine through human challenge studies,” a government spokeswoman said.
“These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner.”
The FT reported that the studies will be government funded, although 1Day Sooner said it would also launch a petition for public funding of a biocontainment facility big enough to quarantine 100 to 200 participants.
Open Orphan, a pharmaceutical services company cited in the FT report, confirmed in a statement early on Thursday that it is in “advanced negotiation with the UK Government and other partners for a coronavirus challenge study in the UK.”
“There can be no certainty that these discussions will lead to a new contract,” it added.
Imperial College London, cited by the FT as the academic lead on the trials, did not confirm the report.
“Imperial continues to engage in a wide range of exploratory discussions relating to COVID-19 research, with a variety of partners,” a spokeswoman said, asked about the possibility of challenge trials.
Any trials conducted in the United Kingdom would have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the health care regulator which looks into safety and protocol.
The MHRA did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment, but 1Day Sooner, which lobbies for challenge trials to accelerate vaccine development, welcomed the report.
“1Day Sooner congratulates the British government on their plans to conduct challenge trials to test vaccines,” it said in a statement, confirming it would petition the government to house the trial participants.
The industry has seen discussions in recent months about potentially having to inject healthy volunteers with the novel coronavirus if drugmakers struggled to find enough patients for final trials.
The FT report did not name the vaccines that would be assessed in the project. British drugmaker AstraZeneca, and French firm Sanofi both told Reuters that their vaccine candidates were not involved in the program.