Vice President Mike Pence urged Chile, Peru, Mexico, and other Latin American nations to consider cutting all diplomatic ties to North Korea during his visit to Chile on Wednesday, suggesting only a full diplomatic freeze could pressure the rogue communist state to cease its constant threats of nuclear attack.
In remarks beside leftist Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Pence told reporters that the Trump administration generally has “been marshalling the support of nations around the world, and as the President acknowledged this morning, we are beginning to see progress in dealing with North Korea’s provocations and pursuit of a nuclear and ballistic missile program.”
“As President Bachelet and I discussed today, the United States places great importance on the ongoing diplomatic isolation of the Kim regime,” Pence told reporters. “And we strongly urge Chile today, and we urge Brazil, Mexico, and Peru to break all diplomatic and commercial ties to North Korea.”
Pence requested of Chile especially to designate its local wines “luxury goods” to make them ineligible for export to North Korea under current United Nations sanctions.
Responding to questions from reporters, Pence stated that he and the administration “truly do believe that we are seeing progress,” but that Latin America needs to further distance itself from the communist dictatorship in Pyongyang to fully pressure the nation into ending its nuclear weapons program. “My call today here in Chile and our efforts with regard to Brazil, Mexico, and Peru is simply to call on our friends in this hemisphere and call on nations around the world to continue to use the economic and diplomatic tools that they have to further isolate North Korea,” Pence clarified.
Pence recently completed a tour of Latin America—beginning in Colombia, then flying to Argentina and Chile—seeking support for an international coalition to help socialist Venezuela restore its democratic order. Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro is arguably North Korea’s closest ally in the nation. North Korea planned to open an embassy in the country in 2015, and a year later Maduro himself met with one of the nation’s most prominent diplomats, Kim Yong-nam. Reports regarding the bilateral relationship in 2016 also suggested that North Korea had sent a special forces unit into Venezuela to aid in quelling protests against Maduro and the socialist regime. The reports suggested that North Korea had agreed to the deal after the communist government in Cuba became involved.
Cuba has also kept close ties to North Korea, one of the few remaining explicitly communist countries in the world. Cuban officials met their North Korean counterparts as recently as last week, during the inauguration of president Hassan Rouhani of Iran, and reports have accused North Korea and Cuba of engaging in illegal weapons shipments for years.
North Korea also reportedly keeps ties with Uruguay, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. While these links are not substantial, but loose trade agreements for exchanges on select products, North Korea’s closest ally China has made inroads in expanding its economic footprint in Latin America. Some governments could see negotiating with North Korea as a way to ingratiate themselves with China. Uruguay and Peru were home to far-left governments until very recently; Chile’s leftist Bachelet remains in power, and in Colombia the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are set to announce the establishment of a legal political party on September 1.