Kim Jong Un used China's COVID vaccine candidate: analyst

China has provided North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his family with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, a U.S. analyst said on Tuesday (1 December).

Citing two unidentified Japanese intelligence sources, Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the U.S. think tank Center for the National Interest, said the Kims and several senior North Korean officials had been vaccinated within the last 2-3 weeks.

He added that it was unclear which company had supplied its drug candidate to the Kims and whether it had proven to be safe.

Citing a U.S. medical scientist, Kazianis also said at least three Chinese companies were developing a coronavirus vaccine, including Sinovac, CanSinoBio and Sinopharm.

Sinopharm says its candidate has been used by nearly one million people in China.

But none of the firms are known to have publicly launched late-stage clinical trials of their experimental COVID-19 drugs.

However, other experts have expressed doubt that Kim would use an experimental vaccine.

North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus infections, but South Korea's National Intelligence Service has said an outbreak there can't be ruled out.

North Korea had trade and people-to-people exchanges with China, where COVID-19 first broke out, before shutting its border in late January.

Microsoft said in November two North Korean hacking groups had tried to break into the network of vaccine developers in multiple countries, without specifying the companies targeted.

Sources told Reuters they included British drugmaker AstraZeneca.

South Korea said last week it had foiled the North's attempts to hack into its own COVID-19 vaccine makers.