SEOUL, Aug. 11 (UPI) — A delegation of North Korea‘s Workers’ Party began a state visit to Africa, according to Pyongyang’s state media.
Ri Yong Ho, the former foreign minister who was appointed deputy head of the Workers’ Party committee, is leading the delegation.
KCNA reported Ri left North Korea on Thursday to attend the seventh assembly of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
Multiples sources who spoke to South Korean news agency Yonhap said Ri transferred at Capital Airport in Beijing but did not leave the airport before boarding his flight to Africa.
Beijing’s airports are Pyongyang’s gateways to the rest of the world. Top North Korean politicians Ri, Kim Yong Nam and Choe Ryong Hae have all connected to flights from Beijing.
It’s unlikely Ri had contact with senior Chinese officials at the airport, but a vehicle belonging to Ji Jae Ryong, the North Korean ambassador to China, was seen parked in the VIP section of the airport’s Terminal 2, according to Yonhap.
North Korea is trying to break out of its isolation through the rekindling of friendly relations with countries in Africa, South Korean diplomatic officials say.
South Korea for its part has been active in reviving ties with countries like Cuba, Uganda, Cambodia and Laos, countries with traditional relations with North Korea.
Pyongyang has stated its second-most powerful politician, Choe Ryong Hae, met with the Brazilian president during the Rio Olympic Games, but the claim is not true, South Korea press has reported.
The North Korean delegation requested a meeting with Brazil’s Michel Temer but the government turned down the request, Brazilian diplomatic officials told Yonhap earlier this week.
Choe left Rio on Thursday after attending various events to show support for the North Korean team.