North Korean officials meet with Cuban vice president

SEOUL, June 28 (UPI) — North Korea may be under heavy sanctions, but Pyongyang appears to be making every effort to engage foreign dignitaries visiting the country.

State-controlled KCNA reported Tuesday top North Korean officials met with Cuban Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa to discuss matters in a “friendly atmosphere.”

Valdes Mesa was traveling to North Korea on Tuesday as a special envoy of Cuban President Raul Castro, Yonhap reported.

Choe Ryong Hae, vice chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee, was accompanied by a number of Pyongyang officials, including Ri Su Yong, the former foreign minister.

“Going forward we will work actively toward expanding and developing a tradition of friendly cooperative relations between the Communist Party of Cuba and the North Korean people,” Choe said, according to KCNA.

North Korea rarely announces visits from foreign envoys, and it’s likely Valdes Mesa could meet with Kim Jong Un, Kyodo News reported.

If Kim meets with the Cuban official, it will be the first time he will meet with a foreign representative since October, when he held a meeting with the Chinese Communist Party’s fifth most powerful politician Liu Yunshan.

South Korean analyst Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies told Yonhap the possibility the Cuban official will meet with Kim is high.

“Kim Jong Un could strategically highlight his leadership in a meeting with the Cuban envoy,” Yang said.

Diplomatic rivalry runs deep between North and South Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se visited Cuba in early June, in a bid to improve bilateral relations with Havana.

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