North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had talks with a Chinese envoy in Pyongyang yesterday, Chinese state media said, his first known meeting with a senior foreign visitor since a reported stroke in August.
Kim met with Wang Jiarui (王家瑞), a senior official with China’s ruling Communist Party, Xinhua news agency said in a brief dispatch.
North Korea’s state media has not reported any meetings between the 66-year-old Kim and foreign visitors since his illness.
US and South Korean officials have said he suffered a stroke last August but Seoul officials say he made a good recovery and remains in control of the hardline communist state.
Yesterday’s meeting could offer evidence Kim is well enough to run the country and make decisions about its nuclear weapons program.
Since Kim’s reported stroke, the Stalinist nation’s media has published dozens of undated photos of him inspecting military installations or factories in an apparent attempt to show he is fit and in control.
Most North Korean newspaper reports of appearances by Kim have also been undated.
The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported recently that Kim had visited the Wonsan Youth Power Station on Jan. 6, although there was no independent confirmation the visit had taken place.
Wang was in North Korea at the start of a year during which the two nations will mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
However, outside observers said it was more significant that Wang met Kim just days after US President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Paik Hak-soon of the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank, told Yonhap news agency this week that Wang was expected to deliver a message from Beijing.
The message is “that it is much more optimistic with the Obama administration than Bush’s, and that it’d be in North Korea’s interest to cooperate in the nuclear negotiations,” Paik said.