Trip by sanctioned legislative leader follows August embassy opening in North Korea
A delegation led by Venezuela’s top legislator landed in Pyongyang on Tuesday and held talks on expanding exchanges and cooperation, according to North Korean state outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Delegation leader Diosdado Cabello, president of the country’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and first vice-chairman of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), toured Pyongyang and held an expanded bilateral meeting on Tuesday.
In talks with chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) Pak Thae Song, the two discussed “ways for developing exchange and cooperation… in various fields,” KCNA reported.
The SPA also hosted a reception later that night, another KCNA report said, in which Pak praised Venezuela for “foiling the sanctions and sabotages by hostile forces,” and said the two countries stand together “on the road of anti-imperialist independence.”
Details regarding the length of the delegation’s stay have yet to be released by either side, though Cabello is likely to meet with other top North Korean officials this week and possibly attend the ongoing “mass games” and international trade fair being held this week.
His visit this week is likely to raise eyebrows in Washington, however: the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Cabello in May last year, saying he has often been described as the “second most powerful man in Venezuela” and claiming that he has “conducted a significant amount of illicit business” with other top officials in the country.
It is the second high-level delegation from Caracas in recent months, with Venezuelan vice-foreign minister Ruben Dario Molina visiting in August to inaugurate the country’s first embassy in Pyongyang.
The appointment of a permanent resident ambassador has yet to be announced, however, with the current head of the mission, Chargé d’affaires Ad Hoc Mauricio Bardinet Tatá, instead greeting Cabello at the Pyongyang International Airport on Tuesday.
Prior to that foreign ministry delegation’s visit, the son of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and an influential political figure himself, Nicolas Ernesto Maduro Guerra, also traveled to Pyongyang in July, though his name was not mentioned in DPRK media reports of his delegation’s visit.
Cabello and his delegation flew from Istanbul into the North Korean capital before dawn Tuesday via Venezuela’s national carrier Conviasa, on what appears to be flight YV3016 — an Embraer 190 Lineage 1000 often used for government VIPs.
The legislative leader notably met with the DPRK’s then-President of the SPA Presidium Kim Yong Nam in Caracas last November, remarking in official statements common talking points on the two countries’ shared socialist systems and fight against the “permanent attack of American imperialism.”
He also told the state-run Venezuelan Television Corporation (VTV) following the meeting that he and Kim “talked about political, military, and economic integration to resist and win” that struggle.
Cabello’s last meeting with a DPRK representative came in late August, where he met with North Korean ambassador to Venezuela Ri Sung Gil in Caracas, again discussing joint efforts to fight U.S.-led sanctions, according to the country’s foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was also traveling on Tuesday, landing in Moscow that day ahead of a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, according to the Kremlin.