Pyongyang bolsters old alliances

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Pyongyang bolsters old alliances

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, ride through Pyongyang on Sunday. [YONHAP]

Ahead of high-level talks between North Korea and the United States in New York this week, Pyongyang has been busy strengthening ties with friendly countries, including China, Russia and Cuba.

Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang led a cultural delegation that included dancers and musicians on a four-day trip to Pyongyang that “successfully winding up its goodwill visit” on Monday, according to the North’s official state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a joint performance by North Korean and Chinese artists at the Mansudae Art Theatre in Pyongyang Saturday. He was flanked by top officials, including Choe Ryong-hae and Ri Su-yong, both vice chairmen of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, Culture Minister Pak Chun-nam and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, the first vice director of the Central Committee.

Another joint performance was held at the theater on Monday before Luo and his delegation, which included Chinese actress Tong Liya, departed. North Korean officials as well as Chinese Ambassador to Pyongyang Li Jinjun, students and teachers were also in attendance.

During its mass games on Sunday evening, North Korea prominently featured a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping during its finale, highlighting North Korea-China friendship. The performance was attended by the two countries’ culture ministers and other officials from the ruling Workers’ Party and the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang.

Luo and his delegation visited Friendship Tower on Sunday and paid silent tribute to the Chinese soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. The KCNA reported that Luo wrote in the guestbook, “China-Korea friendship sealed in blood will be ever-lasting!”

North Korean leader Kim has held three summits with Chinese President Xi this year in China. Xi is expected to make his first visit to Pyongyang since he became president soon. Whether it takes place within the year depends in part on the results of the talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-chol Thursday in New York. The ongoing trade war between China and the United States has sometimes put a damper on the Korean Peninsula denuclearization negotiations, and U.S. President Donald Trump has at times accused Beijing of getting in the way of talks with the North.

Kim Jong-un also met with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez at the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee headquarters in Pyongyang Monday. The KCNA reported Tuesday that they exchanged views on socioeconomic development, socialism, the situation on the Korean Peninsula and international relations.

Diaz-Canel was accompanied by his wife Lis Cuesta Perasa, and Kim by his wife, Ri Sol-ju. KCNA reported that they held talks “in a harmonious atmosphere.”

They also had dinner afterward, according to the KCNA, and exchanged views on the “politics, economy, culture and customs of the two countries.” Kim and Diaz-Canel were likely discussed cooperation on getting the United States to ease sanctions.

Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, made a three-day visit to Pyongyang which concluded last Thursday. It included a meeting with Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

At the end of last month, North Korea’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Sin Hong-chol visited Moscow for talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.

The North Korean leader is expected to make a visit to Moscow for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month.


BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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