In a rare display of sensitivity, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed his “bitter sorrow” over the deaths of dozens of Chinese tourists whose bus plunged off a bridge in his country.
The despot was seen tenderly clasping the hand of a survivor of the disaster in the North Hwanghae province, where 32 Chinese nationals and four North Koreans perished, according to the BBC.
Kim also visited the Chinese embassy Monday and said he felt “uncontrollable grief” about the deaths, the UK’s Guardian reported.
The state-run KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying that his people “take the tragic accident as their own misfortune.”
“[Kim] said that the unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart,” KCNA reported. “”He couldn’t control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives.”
Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun thanked Kim for Pyongyang’s “unbreakable and great friendship,” the Yonhap news agency reported.
China and North Korea are longtime allies and Kim’s visit to the injured is likely to be regarded in part as a way of protecting his image among the Chinese population.
Chinese tourists make up an estimated 80 percent of foreign tourists to the secretive North and provide an important source of money for Pyongyang.
Earlier this year, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, his first known foreign trip since he became leader in 2011.
North Korea last week announced it was stopping all nuclear and missile tests ahead of Friday’s summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and another planned meeting with President Trump in late May or early June.