Updated at 19:20 KST: A previous version of this article reported on the imminent opening of the embassy based on an informed source Wednesday morning, and has been updated following confirmation of the event.
Venezuela opened a new embassy in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang on Wednesday afternoon with a ceremony attended by top diplomats from both countries, according to a Facebook post from the Russian embassy.
Following preparations for the embassy which date back to January, Venezuela’s vice-minister of foreign affairs for Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania Ruben Dario Molina christened the new outpost with a welcoming speech attended by his DPRK counterpart vice foreign minister Pak Myong Guk.
In his speech, according to the Russian embassy, Molina suggested the opening will serve to strengthen the DPRK-Venezuela alliance in the face of “attacks and threats from North American imperialism, which seeks to bring us to our knees because of our unwavering ideology and the desire to achieve economic and social progress.”
“So we say to the imperialists and their allies: you cannot stop us, and you cannot take away our bright future,” Molina reportedly added.
Vice minister Pak also made a speech at the event Wednesday, according to the report, saying the North Korean government “is constantly striving to expand and develop relations of friendship and cooperation with Venezuela.”
The partnership, he added, is bolstered “in the flame of a common anti-imperialist struggle for independence and socialism.”
North Korea, according to Pak, “will continue to provide full assistance and support to the government and people of Venezuela in their efforts to protect their state.”
Molina and his delegation arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, North Korean state media reported the following day.
As the first new diplomatic post in North Korea since a recent change in official protocol, the embassy’s opening and required presenting of credentials for Venezuela’s nominated head of mission will clarify whether or not they will be presented directly to leader Kim Jong Un.
The deputy minister’s visit follows the discreet appearance in Pyongyang last month of Nicolas Ernesto Maduro Guerra, the 29-year-old son of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, as part of a delegation of the country’s National Leadership of the Youth of the United Socialist Party.
He did not officially lead the delegation for the five-day trip and his name was not mentioned in DPRK state media reports on their activities, but it is likely that Maduro Guerra, who holds the position of Head of the Corps of Special Inspectors of the Presidency, delivered a message from his father and possibly discussed the new embassy.
Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza first signed a notice of the country’s intention to open the embassy in North Korea in November 2018, the day after a high-level DPRK delegation visited Caracas for talks.
The document, published in the Venezuelan Official Gazette number 41.534, stated the embassy should be established in Pyongyang and that the Office of the Deputy Minister for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania be responsible for carrying out the related preparatory tasks.
An informed source in Pyongyang confirmed to NK News in January that preparations for opening the embassy were already underway, adding that authorities “are moving people from several apartments” as part of the process.
Venezuela’s new embassy will be located in the diplomatic district in East Pyongyang near the Vietnamese and Polish embassies, the source said in January, and was being converted out of a building used by the General Services Bureau (GSB), which is responsible for managing local staff working in various embassies and international organizations.
A delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, former President of the Presidium of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, traveled to Venezuela in late November 2018, a visit in which strengthening diplomatic relations was said to be a key focus.
The two also agreed to “the abolition of the visa requirement for diplomatic and service passport holders,” according to a statement at the time from the office of Venezuela’s Vice President.
Additionally, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s office reported the purpose of the visit was “strengthening the development between both nations,” including in “diplomatic, economic and commercial relations.”
The two countries have kept up close relations for decades, but North Korea only first opened an embassy in Caracas in 2015, where the current ambassador is Ri Sung Gil.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Facebook of the Russian embassy in Pyongyang
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