Seoul, May 8 : North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent a congratulatory message to Chinese President Xi Jinping for successfully containing the novel coronavirus, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Friday.
In a “verbal message”, Kim said that Xi “is seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic and strategically and tactically controlling the overall situation while leading the Chinese party and people”, Efe news quoted Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying in a report.
Kim also wished te President “good health” and expressed conviction that “the Chinese party and people would cement the successes made so far and steadily expand them and thus win a final victory under the wise guidance of Xi Jinping”, KCNA added, without specifying when the message was delivered to Beijing.
Kim has on several occasions praised the efforts of the Chinese government in controlling the pandemic, the real extent of which is unknown in North Korea since Pyongyang completely sealed its borders at the end of January in the face of the spread of the disease in the neighbouring country.
Kim’s latest words of praise for Xi came after he reappeared in a state media report on May 2 following a 21-day absence from the public eye.
During this period, the leader missed several important regime events, including the commemoration of the birth of the country’s founder and Kim’s grandfather Kim Il-sung, on the main national holiday on April 15.
Given the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the traditional secretiveness of the North Korean government, Kim’s disappearance had been accompanied by anonymously sourced reports in foreign media suggesting that he was gravely ill after undergoing cardiac surgery, or even dead.
The speculation was also fueled by the state media reporting that during his last public event, Kim named his sister as a member of the powerful Workers’ Party of Korea political bureau, a move interpreted by some commentators as a succession plan.
However, South Korean intelligence agencies refuted the speculations and later the North Korean leader’s reappearance ruled out the possibility that he could have undergone any medical procedure of this kind.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said that even a simple cardiovascular procedure would have required four or five weeks of recovery, whereas Kim was absent for three weeks.