North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong has affirmed the DPRK’s relations with Cuba, saying the two countries shared “excellent” bilateral ties, according to La Prensa Latina on March 17.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) wrote that Ri and an official delegation had arrived in Havana on March 15, but gave no further details as to the purpose of their visit, which coincides with negotiations between Havana and Washington on restoring diplomatic relations.
During a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cuban FM Bruno Rodriguez said he wished to further improve ties between the two countries.
“Cuba will remain invariably defending just causes and the truth and oppose any political interference and attempted manipulation internal affairs…So I reiterate the solidarity of our Communist Party, government and people,” Rodriguez told the North Korean foreign minister in comments carried by La Prensa Latina.
“Your visit will deepen our ties in the year of the 55th anniversary of our diplomatic relations,” Rodriguez added.
The North Korean FM echoed the statements, saying the two countries have were in the same trench fighting continuing U.S. imperialism.
Cuba’s remarks may appear poorly timed, given the ongoing negotiations with the U.S. over normalization, but experts are sceptical that the relationship between Cuba and North Korea will affect the talks.
“Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba do not mean that Cuba is going to become a U.S. ally. After all, the U.S. has diplomatic relations with China, Russia and many other countries which are not friendly towards the U.S.,” Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University told NK News.
“I seriously doubt (this will affect negotiations), Washington knows where Cuba stands and from the beginning, Raul (Castro) said that none of this would change Cuba’s international relations and alliances…It’s business as usual,” Jorge B. de Cárdenas, an independent Cuba analyst said.
Instead the statements from Cuba’s FM could be a method of keeping up appearances on the international stage.
“It is important for Cuba to remain defiant in the public eye, this must be seen not as an admission of the failure of Cuba’s economy but as a defeat against imperialism,” Cárdenas continued.
Despite the warm relations, North Korean media makes only sporadic mention of Cuba. Data from the NK News KCNA Watch tool shows no clear pattern in Korean media’s output on the Caribbean island country.
North Korea’s recent history with Cuba has attracted attention for many of the wrong reasons. In 2013, the DPRK vessel the Chong Chon Gang was caught smuggling a shipment of Cuban weaponry through the Panama Canal.
Speaking to NK News last year, former head of the UN Panel of Experts Martin Uden called the shipment an “in flagrante delicto violation of UN sanctions.”
More recently, another ship owned by the same management company as the Chong Chon Gang called in at Cuba on its way to Mexico. The ship was later impounded by Mexican authorities and, according to the NK News ship tracker, has yet to be released.
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