China’s Xi responds to Kim’s congratulatory message

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Beijing, (Samajweekly) Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s congratulatory message for successfully containing the novel coronavirus in the Asian giant, where the disease originated last December.

Xi “sent a verbal message of thanks to Kim Jong-un” in response to Kim’s earlier note, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a “verbal message”, Kim had said that Xi was “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 North Korean state-run KCNA as saying in a report on Friday.

China’s National Health Commission reported only a single new case Saturday, and no new deaths, bringing the total cases to 82,887, while deaths sat at 4,633, and total recoveries at 78,046 since the outbreak began in Wuhan, Hubei province.

Kim had 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.

Kim 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 neighbouring country.

Kim’s latest words of praise for Xi come after he reappeared in state media 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 stories in foreign media suggesting that he was gravely ill after undergoing cardiac surgery, or even dead.

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.