Kim congratulates Xi on ‘success’ against COVID-19

Seoul, May 8 (efe-epa).- North Korea’s leader has sent a congratulatory message to the Chinese president for successfully containing the novel coronavirus, Pyongyang’s media reported Friday, marking more news of his activity since his weeks-long disappearance from the public eye.

In a “verbal message,” Kim Jong-un said that Xi Jinping “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,” North Korean state-run agency KCNA reported.

Kim also wished Xi “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.

The leader of the ‘hermit kingdom’ has on several occasions praised the efforts of the Chinese government in controlling the epidemic, 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 neighboring country.

Kim’s latest words of praise for Xi come after the North Korean dictator reappeared in state media on Saturday 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 Apr. 15.

State television had broadcast images of Kim attending a ceremony to mark the inauguration of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, a city in the east-central area of the country, and state media covered the news on Saturday, a day after the event.

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 stories 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. EFE-EPA


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