The two socialist nations have maintained political, economic and cultural ties for over half a century, and there are hopes that Havana can play an important role in defusing the North Korean crisis.
Cuban President Raul Castro met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong on Friday, Reuters reported.
“In the brotherly encounter, both sides commented on the historic friendship between the two nations and talked about international topics of mutual interest,” Cuban state television said.
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that last year he had discussed with Castro the possibility of working with Cuba to help resolve the situation around North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
During his visit to Cuba, which kicked off earlier this week, Ri also met his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez. According to a statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Havana and Pyongyang, both under US sanctions, denounced Washington’s “unilateral and arbitrary lists and designations” that resulted in “coercive measures contrary to international law.”
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North Korea has been under unprecedented pressure from the United States and the international community. Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang spiked after Donald Trump assumed the presidency, promoting harsh rhetoric towards the Asian country and continuing drills that Pyongyang strictly opposes.
The situation was additionally complicated by an increased number of North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests, which resulted in a new round of international sanctions against Pyongyang.
Trump’s presidency also resulted in growing tensions between Washington and Havana, as his administration has hit the brakes on a détente started under the Barack Obama administration and returned to hardline rhetoric.
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The visit of the North Korean foreign minister to Havana indicates that both nations are trying to join efforts against the growing pressure from Washington, Dr. Leonid Petrov, a North Korea expert and visiting fellow at Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, told Radio Sputnik in an interview.
“North Korea has found itself under even more tightening international sanctions. It looks like Pyongyang is now looking for business partners who would be willing to trade with them. Ri Yong-ho’s visit to Cuba demonstrates that North Korea is trying to build a new coalition – a coalition of anti-American states,” Petrov pointed out.