Daily US Times: China’s President Xi Jinping has expressed concern about the threat of the coronavirus to North Korea and offered help to the country.
He was responding to a message received from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
According to Chinese state media, Mr Kim congratulated Mr Xi on China’s apparent success in fighting Covid-19.
Mr Xi offered the help when North Korea’s government officially said that there have been not a single case in the country so far, though analysts have questioned whether that is possible.
North Korea shut its borders in the third week of January, in response to the virus, the first country to did so. The country has a fragile health system, which experts fear would be quickly overwhelmed by even a small coronavirus outbreak.
According to Chinese state media, in his “verbal message of thanks”, Mr Xi said he highly appreciated Mr Kim’s support during China’s outbreak and “showed his personal attention to the situation of the pandemic and people’s health” in North Korea.
Xi Jinping called for more efforts to strengthen co-operation in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and said China was “willing to continue to provide assistance within its own capacity for [North Korea] in the fight against Covid-19”.
North Korean state media reported on Friday that Kim Jong-un had offered a verbal message to the president that “congratulated him, highly appreciating that he is seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic”.
Kim Jong-un recently went 20 days without appearing in public and missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday – one of the biggest events of the year, what he had never missed.
Rumors and speculations further sparked about Mr Kim’s ill-health when in a report of Daily NK surfaced.
An anonymous source told the Daily NK, the website focuses on North Korean affairs closely, that they understood he had been struggling with cardiovascular problems since last August “but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu”.
This led to a chain of reporting by international media on a single-sourced story.
Speculations were circulating all over the world, while some media reports claimed he was “gravely ill”, or even dead. But he then appeared at a fertiliser factory – apparently in good health.
Suh Hoon, the head of South Korea’s intelligence agency, spoke to a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
The country’s Yonhap news agency reports, Mr Hoon said there were no signs that rumours about Kim Jong-un’s health were true.
The committee heard the North Korean leader had appeared in public 17 times this year, though by this time of year, he would normally have appeared 50 times.