Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday offered to help North Korea contain the novel coronavirus, in his reply to an earlier message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“China is willing to enhance anti-epidemic cooperation with the DPRK and provide as much support as its capacity allows for the DPRK in line with the latter’s needs,” Xi said, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. DPRK stands for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Xi also expressed confidence of a “final victory” over the pandemic through the combined efforts of China, North Korea and the international community.
His remarks were a response to a message Kim sent last week, lauding Beijing’s success in containing the virus.
The Chinese leader, saying he was very glad to receive Kim’s “warm and friendly message,” added that he highly values the bilateral relations between the two countries and intends to “strengthen strategic communication” and “deepen exchanges and cooperation.”
The North’s state media outlet the Korean Central News Agency reported on Xi’s message Sunday, saying Kim “displayed the solid foundation” of traditional Beijing-Pyongyang relations and their “tremendous vitality.”
China has COVID-19 under control, with the number of new infections having fallen sharply since its peak in February. In a sign of improvement, on April 9 China ended its lockdown on Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported late last year.
North Korea has insisted that it has not had a single confirmed case, despite sharing a border with China. Many observers dispute Pyongyang’s claim and have raised concern that the country’s fragile health system may not be able to cope with a massive outbreak.
The exchange of notes arrives after weeks of intense speculation about Kim’s health. The North’s leader missed an event commemorating the country’s most important holiday, the April 15 birthday of his late grandfather Kim Il-sung, the North’s founding father, for the first time since he assumed power in 2011.
His rare absence prompted a whirlwind of rumors, including reports that he was dead or in a vegetative state after botched cardiovascular surgery. But after a three-week-hiatus, Kim quashed the rumors by appearing at an opening ceremony for a fertilizer plant.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com