North Korean vice premier Ri Ryong Nam stressed the DPRK’s committment to bolstering ties with Nigeria and Venezuela in a series of meetings with officials in the capital of Abuja last week.
Speaking in his capacity as head of a North Korean government delegation invited to take part in celebrations of Nigeria’s “Democracy Day” on June 12, Ri was reported to have met with the Presidents of Nigeria, Congo, Namibia, and Chad on Wednesday and Thursday.
The vice premier’s trip represents the first to Africa by a high-level North Korean delegation since October last year, when a group of officials, also led by Ri, visited Equatorial Guinea to take part in celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the independence of the country.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to the North Korean state media, told the DPRK delegation last week he was “deeply impressed” by leader Kim Jong Un’s decision to send a delegation to the Democracy Day celebrations.
He also committed to “make all efforts to further develop the traditional friendly and cooperative relations with the DPRK,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The Presidents of Congo, Namibia, and Chad, too, were said to have “warmly congratulated” the North Korean leader for his re-election in April as head of the DPRK’s State Affairs Commission.
“They wished the Korean people success in their work for building a powerful country and achieving peace and safety on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA added.
No further details on those meetings were available, though local press did go into more detail on last week’s talks between the North Korean vice premier and Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President.
Those talks, local newspaper the Daily Post reported, saw Osinbajo call for the two countries to expand cooperation.
“I agree that we can work out a more dynamic model of cooperation, especially in agriculture and technology,” he was quoted as having said.
“Food processing is one major area that we can look into,” he continued. “I hope we will be able to advance discussions on cooperation in the identified areas, and there are many other areas where we can deepen this cooperation.”
In response to the Vice President, Ri was reported to have praised his host’s efforts to “to ensure social stability and unity.”
“Your country has also achieved eye-catching successes, through reforms, in the economy, making Nigeria a leading economy in the region,” he said.
It is unclear what form cooperation between the two countries might take, with UN sanctions likely prohibiting most substantial forms of economic exchanges.
The DPRK and Nigeria in 2014 signed a cooperation agreement to promote the exchange of knowledge in information technology, however, and North Korean doctors have also been known to work in Nigeria.
The UN Panel of Experts in March, too, reported that the DPRK’s Korea General Corporation for External Construction (GENCO) continues to operate in the country.
Ri’s meetings in Nigeria last week also saw him hold talks with another long-standing partner of the DPRK government, meeting in Abuja with Venezuelan sectoral Vice President of Social and Territorial Development Aristóbulo Istúriz.
Istúriz used those talks to reaffirm the “bonds of friendship” between the two countries, according to a statement by the Venezuelan foreign ministry, with Ri in response reaffirming “the support of his nation to the resistance of the people of Venezuela.”
North Korean media reported that the Vice President had “wished the government and people of the DPRK, strong in independence, greater success in their struggle for socialism against imperialism.”
“The Venezuelan government and people would value and develop the friendly and cooperative relations with the DPRK,” the KCNA quoted him as having said.
Featured image: Yemi Osinbajo’s Instagram