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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean titular head of state Kim Yong Nam wrapped up an over two-week-long trip to Latin America with a second visit to Cuba before returning to Pyongyang, the DPRK state-run Korean Central New Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday.
The trip saw the DPRK delegation made two separate visits to Cuba, as well as to Venezuela and Mexico.
The 90-year-old Kim, whose full title is President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, was accompanied by vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Pak Thae Song and vice foreign minister Ho Yong Bok.
North Korean officials — who previously visited Cuba en route to Mexico — met First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) Central Committee Raúl Castro Ruz on Tuesday in Havana, KCNA reported on Friday.
The DPRK delegation stopped by the country en route to Pyongyang, the coverage added.
Citing a recent visit by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel to Pyongyang, Kim used the meeting to express his confidence that “bilateral friendly relations would ceaselessly develop,” KCNA said.
Castro, in turn, wished North Korean leader Kim Jong Un success in “leading the struggle of the Korean people who turned out in the implementation of a new strategic line.”
The state-run Cuban News Agency (ACN) on Wednesday said the two sides discussed international issues and “expressed satisfaction for the advances of bilateral relations” between parties and governments.
Kim Jong Un reportedly sent a message to Castro through the DPRK delegation, ACN added, without providing further details.
North Korean vice-chairman Pak Tae Song, DPRK ambassador to Cuba Ma Chol Su, and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla — present at November’s talks in Havana — also attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Kim Yong Nam previously met Cuban President Díaz-Canel on November 29, having arrived in Havana a day prior, with the two sides discussing “political dialogue,” plans for cooperation between the two countries, and other issues of mutual concern, KCNA reported.
Kim also met Cuba’s first vice president of the Councils of State Salvador Valdés Mesa, who led the Cuban delegation and visited Pyongyang on the occasion of the 70th founding anniversary of the DPRK.
The North Korean delegation then traveled to Mexico, for the inauguration of new President Andrés Manuel López Obrad.
Kim Yong Nam later met López at the Presidential palace, KCNA belatedly reported on Friday, conveying a greeting and a gift from Kim Jong Un.
Mexico and North Korea previously had a serious diplomatic falling-out in 2014, after the DPRK-owned ship the Mu Du Bong ran aground on a reef near the Mexican port of Tuxpan in July that year.
That diplomatic divide appear to have deepened following the Mexican government’s expulsion of DPRK ambassador Kim Hyong Gil in September last year – a response to Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test.
Friday saw KCNA report that Kim had also delivered Kim Jong Un’s greetings to Bolivian President Evo Morales and Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina Sanchez, without providing further details.
He was also reported to have held talks with the Cuban President and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros on the sidelines of the inauguration, held on December 1.
KCNA did not, however, make reference to a meeting at that event between Kim and South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha.
Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Sunday announced that the minister had met and briefly held a conversation with Kim at a welcoming luncheon.
The ROK foreign minister reportedly told Kim that she expects a visit by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to Seoul to come “expeditiously, to strengthen the dynamic force for a peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.”
In return, Kim Yong Nam responded that the two sides should work together continuously to improve inter-Korean relations, the ROK MOFA said in a written statement, adding that the talks took place in an “amicable atmosphere.”
The DPRK delegation previously met Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and National Constituent Assembly (ANC) President Diosdado Cabello and signed multiple agreements in Caracas as part of the first leg of the tour.
Maduro also delivered a gift to the North Korean leader at the meeting, according to the KCNA report, adding North Korean officials had stayed in the city between November 26 and 28.
Kim Yong Nam previously visited the country in September 2016 to attend the 17th NAM summit, accompanied by North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho.
Last year saw the U.S. Trump administration put pressure on Latin American countries to sever relations with Pyongyang, with Vice President Mike Pence in August urging regional players to “break all diplomatic and commercial ties to North Korea.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: KCNA