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North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel pledge closer relations

  • Meeting in Pyongyang comes as both leaders are feeling the impact of economic sanctions imposed by the United States
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:04pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel – both hoping to get out from under US economic sanctions – have agreed to expand and strengthen their strategic relations, North Korea’s state media reported on Monday.

Diaz-Canel, who is in Asia on his first international tour since assuming office in April, arrived in Pyongyang with his wife on Sunday. He was met at the airport by Kim, who joined him on the ride into the city past flower-waving and cheering crowds.

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North Korea’s state media reported the two held talks at the Paekhwawon State Guest House and stressed their shared socialist history and vowed continued solidarity. The official media offered few specifics, but said the talks proceeded in a “comradely and friendly atmosphere.”

The meeting with Kim could be seen as a shot across the bow for Washington, which has run into increasing difficulty in its efforts to wrest significant progress from the North on the denuclearisation issue.

Pyongyang, which has also been quietly cozying up to Moscow recently, has been hardening its rhetoric ahead of a meeting in New York later this week between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the North’s main negotiator, Kim Yong-chol.

Over the weekend, Pyongyang used its official media to criticise the US for its continued support of sanctions – a political tool Washington has also used extensively on Cuba and Russia – and hinted it may resume nuclear development if Washington doesn’t change its tune.

Sanctions-busting has been high on Diaz-Canel’s agenda.

While in Moscow, Diaz-Canel discussed a nearly US$50 million arms deal with Russia and won a similar vow of expanded political, economic and military ties from Putin.

North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear deterrent without a change in ‘hostile’ US policy

The two then issued a joint statement denouncing US “interference into domestic affairs of sovereign nations.”

The US economic embargo on Cuba, initially imposed in 1958 and subsequently expanded, has remained in place. Russia faced an array of crippling US and EU sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Diaz-Canel was to leave Pyongyang on Tuesday and visit China, Vietnam and Laos.