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Sunday, May 10, 2020

May 10, 2020
FILE PHOTO © KCNA via Reuters

Delivering another blow to subsiding death rumors, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has apparently reached out to his Chinese counterpart, praising Beijing’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kim’s “verbal message” congratulated Xi Jinping on “seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic,” state-run KCNA news agency reported on Friday.

The North Korean commander-in-chief saluted Xi for “strategically and tactically controlling the overall situation” during the Covid-19 crisis. He also extended his “warm greetings” to the Chinese leader, wishing him “good health.”

KCNA didn’t specify exactly how the “verbal message” was communicated, but news of the contact comes a week after other state media posted a series of photos purportedly showing Kim visiting a fertilizer plant. Last Friday, he was seen smiling while greeting workers and touring the facility located in the South Phyongan province.

It was considered to be Kim’s first public appearance since mid-April, when he skipped two high-profile political events, giving rise to allegations that he was dead or incapacitated after unsuccessful surgery.

While the mainstream media were busy fanning rumors of his death – including those based on defectors’ testimonies – South Korean and US officials were more reserved. Seoul’s intelligence challenged the gossip, while its government at one stage noted that Kim wasn’t suffering from anything but fake news and “infodemic.”

Similarly, US President Donald Trump hinted that he had “a good idea” about Kim’s health, adding: “I do know how he’s doing.” All of this, however, wasn’t enough to entirely dispel the rumors, which are still doing the rounds in some media.