North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has already been inoculated with a novel coronavirus vaccine provided by China, an analyst at a Washington-based think tank has said, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the report on Tuesday.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korean expert at the Center for the National Interest, said in his article that Kim and his family, as well as aides, are believed to have received a vaccine within the past two or three weeks, citing two Japanese intelligence sources.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, however, told reporters in Beijing, "I do not know where this news came from. I have not heard of it."
Hua added, "I have no way to verify this specific issue," while China has pledged to deliver vaccines to other countries if it succeeds in developing them, indicating the possibility that Beijing would supply them to Pyongyang in the future.
As the most influential political and economic ally, China has so far provided North Korea with reagent products and medical necessities to tackle the coronavirus, first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
North Korea claims the virus has not made inroads into the nation as it has cut off traffic to and from its two neighbors, China and Russia, since earlier this year in the wake of the virus's outbreak.
Meanwhile, video footage showing Kim holding a cigarette in his hand at a key gathering of the Workers' Party on Sunday was released by the state-run Korean Central Television, although the country recently decided to ban smoking in public places.
Early last month, North Korea enacted a "tobacco-prohibition law" at the plenary meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, but Kim, an avid smoker whose health has been subject to speculation in the past, seems to be an exception.
The footage broadcasted on Monday showed Kim making remarks during the ruling party gathering while holding a cigarette between the fingers of his left hand in front of an ashtray. The video did not show Kim actually smoking.
The latest law is designed to protect "the lives and health of the people" and provide "more cultured and hygienic living environments," according to the official Korean Central News Agency.