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Korean Central News Agency released a report that the North Korea chairman sent a “verbal message” to President Xi, congratulating him on “registering a success” in the fight against COVID-19.
The message is the first public remarks Kim has made since his long absence from the public, which led to widespread speculation about Kim’s health.
Kim disappeared for around 20 days, even missing North Korea’s “Day of the Sun” celebration, held to honor the birth of Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea.
Evidence from Kim’s first public appearance indicated he may have undergone a cardiovascular medical procedure, but no conclusive findings have been reported as of yet.
Kim further wished President Xi “good health” and indicated that he hopes that China can continue with its success in combatting the pandemic.
“Kim’s message is further evidence of the substantial improvement we’ve seen in DPRK-PRC relations since the ‘bad old days’ of 2016-2017,” Evans Revere, a former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, told NK News.
“Those ties bottomed out during that period, but both sides have made a sustained effort to refurbish, restore, and strenghten relations since then.”
Experts have widely speculated that the pandemic started in Wuhan, China, either from the wildlife wet markets or from a virology lab near Wuhan. The U.S. has led international criticism of China’s initial handling of the outbreak, accusing them of failing to act quickly to contain the virus, silencing doctors and whistleblowers during the early days of its spread, which eventually led to the global pandemic.
While Pyongyang denies any presence of the virus within its borders, the DPRK took drastic steps to prevent any possible spread with a national lockdown starting in January as China dealt with the peak of the pandemic.
NK News notes that North Korea ended its activity pause in late February and commenced a series of missile tests that amounted to the country’s busiest month of tests ever.