The newspaper, citing an unidentified source in Beijing, reported the official as saying that Kim had no problem speaking and thinking, but that the Chinese government had expected him to miss Tuesday's ceremony due to the spasms.

In contrast, North Korea's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper mentioned nothing about Kim's health in a lengthy editorial on Friday, except to call on the impoverished population to unite around him.

"Our dignified republic exists because the Dear General exists," the paper said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

"All party members and workers should further unite around the revolutionary leadership."

The South Korean government on Wednesday confirmed it had received intelligence reports that the North Korean leader had suffered a stroke but was "not seen to be in a serious condition".

Officials in Seoul said they believed Kim was recovering while still in control of the country.

International concerns
 

North Korean officials rejected reports that Kim is gravely ill [EPA]
Several senior North Korean officials have rejected reports that Kim is seriously ill, although his absence from public view for several weeks has fuelled international speculation over his health.

On Thursday the United Nations secretary general said he hoped reports of Kim's illness would not affect the denuclearisation of Korean peninsula.

"I only hope that any situation happening ... should not affect negatively what has been going on in terms of denuclearisation process ... of the Korean peninsula as agreed by the six parties," Ban Ki-moon, himself a former South Korean foreign minister, told reporters.

Ban's comments follow the release of satellite images purportedly showing the construction of a new testing base for North Korean long-range ballistic missiles, claims Pyongyang denies.

Lee Sang-Hee, South Korea's defence minister, confirmed on Thursday that the photos showed the North was building a new launch site for long-range missiles.

"We're aware of it ... about 80 per cent of the work has been completed and we're watching it closely," aides quoted Lee as saying at a closed-door meeting of defence officials.

A US military expert who has seen the imagery of the site located on the west coast of North Korea said that the facility appeared designed to support a significant flight test programme.