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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Ri Su Yong, one of North Korea’s most senior diplomats, is leading a delegation to Cuba this week, state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported late Monday.
The trip will be Ri’s second to Havana in under a year, and his first overseas visit since notably being left out of the delegation sent to Vladivostok for Kim Jong Un’s summit with the Russian President last month.
Ri, who serves as a vice-chairman of the Workers Party of Korea’s (WPK) Central Committee and head of its International Department, was said to have left Pyongyang on Monday to lead a “party and government delegation” to Cuba.
No information was provided regarding other delegation members or their expected schedule, and media has yet to report on any stopover in Beijing.
During his last visit to Havana in early July 2018 – which was only described as a WPK delegation and not a “party and government” delegation – Ri met Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Army General Raúl Castro, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, among others.
Former President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Nam also met Díaz-Canel in Havana in late November, as part of a trip which also saw visits to Mexico and Venezuela.
The trip began and ended with stops in Cuba, and in Kim’s talks with Díaz-Canel, the two reportedly discussed North Korea and Cuba’s “common struggle for socialism against imperialism” and “developing the non-aligned movement.”
That delegation followed a high-profile three-day official visit to Pyongyang by President Díaz-Canel in early November.
During their summit, he and Kim Jong Un stressed their common socialist systems, and discussed “exchanges in various fields including economy, culture, public health, science and technology.”
In their most recent public correspondence, KCNA late last month reported that Kim Jong Un had sent a letter to Díaz-Canel saying he believed “common understanding and agreements reached at the meaningful meeting and talks with you in November last year would lead to good results.”
These, he continued, would “vigorously accelerate the development of the bilateral friendly and cooperative relations.”
The delegation comes as North Korea continues to intensify ties with its traditional allies, and follows another trip to Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states Syria, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Mongolia led by vice-foreign minister Pak Myong Guk from late April to mid-May.
Ri Su Yong’s most recent trip abroad was to Laos in late March.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA