Kim Jong-il, the North Korean supreme leader, met a senior official from China's Communist Party today—in his first known meeting with a foreigner since suffering a stroke in August. The meeting was seen as an attempt to show that Kim remains in charge of North Korea, which has strongly denied rumors that he was ill. State media released photographs of the meeting, but no video.
In another sign that Kim's health might be improving, North Korea will go ahead with postponed elections for its parliament, a powerless body that approves Kim's decrees. Scholars of North Korea say that Kim timed the photo-op to coincide with the inauguration of Barack Obama, who has said he is open to further diplomatic overtures to the rogue nation. "Kim needed to signal to Washington that he is well enough to accept an envoy," said one analyst in Seoul.