Senior North Korean diplomat Ri Su Yong on Monday finished up a week-long trip to Cuba, DPRK state media reported on Wednesday.
Ri, who serves as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) and vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), left the Cuban capital on Monday, according to ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun.
The visit was the first to Cuba by a high-ranking DPRK official since Miguel Díaz-Canel took office as President in April, though neither the North or Cuba’s state media went into extensive detail on the purpose of the visit.
It also represented a rare independent trip abroad for Ri – a less frequent occurrence since his removal from the position of foreign minister in May 2016.
His last trip abroad as head of a delegation was in October 2016, when he visited Vietnam before the surprise cancelation of a planned visit to Indonesia.
Ri also canceled a planned trip to Europe in April.
The DPRK vice-chairman most recently accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on his trip to Singapore for the DPRK-U.S. summit, however.
Ri left Pyongyang on July 3 as head of the WPK delegation and met the Cuban President and several high-level officials.
At his meeting with President Diaz-Canel on Saturday at Havana’s State Council, Ri verbally conveyed a message from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA ) and the Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported, without providing further details.
Ri also briefed the Cuban President on the “economic and social objectives” adopted at April’s 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the WPK, the KCNA reported the following day.
April saw the DPRK leader announce the country’s “new strategic line,” pledging to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and international-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM), dismantle the Punggye-ri nuclear test ground, and shift focus to the economy.
During the meeting, the ACN reported that both sides had discussed “issues of mutual interest and the international agenda” and “reiterated their interest in continuing to deepen the historic relations between the two peoples, parties and governments.”
Ri also on Thursday met with Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, who serves as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, KCNA and ACN reported.
KCNA said Ri “courteously conveyed the warm greetings and a verbal letter sent by Kim Jong Un” to him, adding Castro had sent a gift to the DPRK leader.
Friday also saw the WPK and the ruling Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) sign an “agreement on exchange and cooperation,” following a meeting between Ri and Member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and Head of its Department of International Relations José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera.
He met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla on Monday morning, the Cuban foreign ministry said, adding that both sides had discussed “historic relations of friendship and cooperation” and international issues of mutual interest.
Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1960, Cuba and North Korea have maintained close ties.
Prior to Ri’s visit, the most recent visit to Cuba by North Korean officials came in March, when a delegation of the DPRK Central Public Prosecutors Office led by Director Kim Myong Gil traveled to Havana to sign an agreement with his Cuban counterpart.
November last year saw DPRK foreign minister Ri Yong Ho visit Havana and meet with his local counterpart.
Choe Ryong Hae, vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, also visited the country in December 2016 following the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba
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