Jan. 22 (UPI) -- North Korea is raising concerns about the new deadly coronavirus and has banned all foreign travelers from entering the country.
It is also holding back on criticism of China, where nine people are reported dead since the outbreak in Wuhan.
Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Wednesday an "infectious disease" behind a "new strain of coronavirus" is spreading rapidly in China.
North Korean state media credited the Chinese government for taking "relevant measures" since the first case was reported in Wuhan, and that Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered important instructions to Beijing's State Council.
"Projects to prevent the plague were announced," the Rodong said.
The Kim Jong Un regime is taking precautionary measures, however. Travel agencies based in China have temporarily suspended all North Korea tour packages, citing a short-term ban, South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News reported.
Chinese authorities could be downplaying the rapid rise of the flu epidemic.
Officers at a Chinese State Council press conference in Beijing instructed reporters to take off face masks before entering, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Wednesday.
Authorities could have been worried the live footage of reporters donning masks would trigger panic in the population, according to the report.
It is unclear how much information transparency is available in China on the coronavirus. Subway riders in Beijing who spoke to Yonhap said, "What is there to be scared about, it is not likely a travel ban has been issued."
North Korea maintains close ties with China and depends on Beijing for trade.
The country could be changing its U.S. and South Korea strategy, following unconfirmed reports Kim appointed Ri Son Gwon as new foreign minister.
Ri berated South Korean business executives in 2018. The incident may have helped him rise to his new position, according to Thae Yong-ho, the high-profile defector who fled Pyongyang's embassy in London.
Thae also said it is "hard to believe" Ri may have been appointed to the top diplomatic post, and credited Ri Yong Ho, the current foreign minister, for his expertise, South Korean news service New Daily reported Wednesday.