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‘Cuban president arrives in North Korea on state visit’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel looking on during a welcoming ceremony on his arrival at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia, on November 1, 2018. (By Reuters)

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has arrived in North Korea on a state visit, Korean media report, in the wake of stalled talks between North Korea and the United States and just days after Washington imposed fresh economic sanctions on the Caribbean island country.

The plane carrying the 57-year-old Cuban leader landed at the Sunan International Airport in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, on Sunday.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Diaz-Canel met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a ceremony attended by some high-ranking officials in Pyongyang.

Official talks between the two leaders are scheduled for later on Monday.

‘Comradely friendship’

The visit, reportedly on the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has been hailed by the country’s state-run media as a “historic event” aiming to strengthen ties between the two long-time allies.

“The Korean people warmly welcome the visit to Pyongyang by Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez,” read an editorial carried by North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper. “His current visit... is a historic event which powerfully demonstrates invincible friendship and unity and comradely friendship.”

The Cuban press had reported ahead of the visit that the talks between Kim and Diaz-Canel would focus on the interaction of Cuba and North Korea in international organizations, including the United Nations (UN).

No further details have been given on the visit.

Diaz-Canel, who assumed office in April, is on his first tour abroad, which saw him travel to Russia before North Korea. He is also to travel to China, Vietnam, and Laos after departing North Korea.

The Cuban president’s visit to North Korea came as the US administration’s hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton announced new sanctions against Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua on Thursday.

The UN General Assembly later condemned the persisting US sanctions against Cuba, renewing decades-long calls on Washington to remove the unilateral bans.

The US and Cuba had severed relations in 1961 during the Cold War, and Havana has been under a US economic blockade for over 60 years. In July 2015, though, the administration of then-President Barack Obama fully restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.

But President Donald Trump began to partially roll back that historic rapprochement as soon as he took office in early 2017.

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