NORTH Korea and Cuba have vowed to strengthen their relationship as the two nations work closely towards having economic sanctions against them lifted.
The announcement came as Kim Jong-un welcomed Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who is in Asia on his first international tour since assuming office in April.
The Cuban leader arrived in Pyongyang with his wife on Sunday where he was met at the airport by Kim as the two nations held talks about the various US sanctions against them.
According to North Korean state media, the pair held talks at the Paekhwawon State Guest House and reflected on their shared socialist history.
The duo vowed continued working in solidarity, with the talks described as “comradely and friendly.”
Over the weekend, Pyongyang used its official media to criticise the US for its continued support of sanctions as a political tool.
Official news channels went as far as to hint that North Korea may resume nuclear development if Washington doesn’t change is tune with both itself and its allies.
In a statement, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the “improvement of relations and sanctions is incompatible”.
“The US thinks that its oft-repeated ‘sanctions and pressure’ leads to ‘denuclearisation’,” it said.
“We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea,” it said.
North Korea said the lifting of US-led sanctions would be a direct response to Pyongyang’s “proactive and goodwill measures”.
This statement was a reference to its unilateral suspension of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and closure of a nuclear testing ground.
The North also warned that it could bring back its “pyongjin” policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the US failed to change its stance.
Diaz-Canel’s meeting with Kim could be seen as a shot across the bow for Washington, which has run into increasing difficulty in its efforts to wrest significant progress from the North on the denuclearisation issue.
Pyongyang, which has also been quietly cosying up to Moscow recently, has been hardening its rhetoric ahead of a meeting in New York later this week between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the North’s main negotiator, Kim Yong Chol.
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Sanctions-busting has also been high on Diaz-Canel’s agenda.
During a recent trip to Moscow, Diaz-Canel discussed a nearly $50 million arms deal with Russia and won a similar vow of expanded political, economic and military ties from Putin.
The two then issued a joint statement denouncing US “interference into domestic affairs of sovereign nations.”
The US economic embargo on Cuba was initially imposed in 1958 has remained in place since, although it has significantly expanded.
Russia has also faced an array of crippling US and EU sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
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