North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong arrived in Havana this week, just in time for the resumption of talks between Cuba and the United States. In public statements praising the Cuban government, Ri praised Cuba’s continued “fight against American imperialism” and vowed that North Korea would remain a loyal ally to Cuba.
The two communist nations, Ri said, according to Cuban state-run media, “share a history of fighting together in the same trench against American imperialism, which continues to exert economic pressure on our countries to this day.” Ri emphasized that Cuba and North Korea have “excellent relations” and that North Korea hopes to “broaden and strengthen” relations with Cuba.
Cuba’s diplomatic counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, responded by supporting North Korea’s call for a unified Korean peninsula, presumably under the North’s communist system.
Ri also told reporters that he had a “fraternal meeting” with President Raúl Castro, though he did not divulge any details of the meeting.
North Korea’s presence in Cuba coincides with the United States’s, and Ri’s bold public reminder of Cuba’s role as an international thorn in the side of the American government serves to highlight the likely upcoming intransigence Cuba will present before American diplomats. During the last round of talks, Cuba’s lead diplomat Josefina Vidal declared that “changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable” and left the matter open-ended.
Unlike the last rounds of talks, Vidal and her American counterpart, Roberta Jacobson, are meeting outside of the presence of reporters, and it is believed that both governments will provide the public with little information regarding the outcome of these talks. According to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, “their focus is on rolling up their sleeves, and having tough discussions, and getting the work done,” reports Reuters.
Reuters notes that Cuba’s principle objective will be to convince the United States to remove it from the State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list. Talks resume on this matter with the North Korean Foreign Minister on the island, as South Korea accuses the DPRK of “persistent cyber-terror targeting of our country and the international community” in a new statement released on Tuesday. South Korea is specifically alleging the state had a hand in the publication of sensitive materials describing South Korea’s nuclear power plants.
Also present on the island—as Cuba makes its bid to be removed from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list—are most of the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the world’s wealthiest non-jihadist terrorist group (only the Islamic State and Hamas boast fuller coffers). Cuba has long provided the terrorist group, responsible for over 200,000 deaths, safe harbor.