NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] NK leader talks with Cuban president in his office

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Nov 6, 2018 - 15:59
  • Updated : Nov 6, 2018 - 15:59

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with his Cuban counterpart at his office in Pyongyang and discussed in-depth “ways to vitalize cooperation and exchange in various fields,” along with the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the North’s state-run news agency reported Tuesday.

The meeting, which took place at the office building of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Monday, came during Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez’s state visit to North Korea. The office was the venue for Kim’s summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel watches the mass games performance of "The Glorious Country" at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on Nov. 5. (KCNA)

“The leaders of the two countries briefed each other on the situation of their countries, exchanged successes and experience gained in the socio-economic development and shared honest and sincere views on various issues in the field of party activities and socialist constructions of the two parties and the two countries, the situation on the Korean peninsula and the international relations,” the Korean Central News Agency reported in English.

They also “discussed in depth the ways to vitalize cooperation and exchange in various fields,” the KCNA said.

The report added that Kim, his wife, Ri Sol-ju, Diaz-Canel and first lady Lis Cuesta Perasa, talked about their families over dinner, which is rare for North Korean media. It is believed that the North’s state media had previously avoided the topic of family members of both previous and incumbent North Korean leaders and refrained from mentioning them due to the idolization of the Kim family and security matters.

With a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice Chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee Kim Yong-chol scheduled for Thursday, experts say that Diaz-Canel’s visit is intended to showcase the North’s bond with its allies ahead of possible progress in denuclearization talks.

“Cuba is North Korea’s consistent ally, which Pyongyang has been relying on amid diplomatic isolation, and it seems it is trying to show its close ties with its allies before entering the talks with the US,” said Shin Beom-cheol, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

North Korea has often viewed Cuba as a comrade in their common cause of socialism and they have forged solidarity based on their stances against the US. Cuba has had diplomatic relations with the North since 1960 and maintains an embassy in Pyongyang, while the North has one in Havana.

North Korea’s allies, such as China and Russia, have been voicing their support of alleviation of international sanctions against Pyongyang in recent months.

North Korea demands the US agree to declare an end to the Korean War and ease sanctions against it, while the US wants the North to take more concrete denuclearization steps, such as presenting it with an inventory of the North’s nuclear materials and facilities.

Meanwhile, the North has been hosting a Chinese art delegation. Beijing sent the troupe on Friday, and Kim attended the delegation’s joint performance with its Pyongyang counterpart on Saturday, alongside North Korean officials, the North’s media reports said. 

Diaz-Canel arrived in Pyongyang on Sunday, with Kim personally welcoming the Cuban president upon his arrival.

He watched a gymnastics and artistic performance titled “The Glorious Country” at the May Day Stadium.

This is Diaz-Canel’s first overseas trip since he took office in April.

Kim met Diaz-Canel in 2015, when the latter traveled to Pyongyang as Cuba’s first vice president.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)