Yun Byung-se makes first-ever S. Korean Foreign Minister visit to Cuba

Posted on : 2016-06-06 17:12 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Visit could be a turning point toward South Korea and Cuba establishing official diplomatic relations
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se attends the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) summit in Havana
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se attends the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) summit in Havana

Yun Byung-se became the first South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs in history to visit Cuba.

His visit could be a turning point in negotiations toward the normalization of relations between Seoul and Havana. Cuba is one of the more strategically important of the three countries - Syria and Macedonia are the others - that South Korea that does not have diplomatic relations with among the 191 UN member states besides itself and North Korea.

Yun was the senior South Korean representative for the seventh Association of Caribbean States (ACS) summit in Havana. South Korea is not a member of the association, but gained observer status in 1998.

“This is the first summit-level multilateral meeting being held in Cuba since the US and Cuba’s agreement on normalizing relations, and we took into account the fact that it was taking place in Cuba, which has relations with the US, and there was an invitation from the summit for Minister Yun,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said of Yun’s attendance.

After the ACS summit organizers extended an invitation to Yun, Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yul attended first on his behalf, as Yun was then accompanying President Park Geun-hye on her recent visits to Africa and France. Yun joined the summit at its meeting on the afternoon of June 4.

Yun said that day that South Korea had “worked in various ways to improve bilateral relations [with Cuba] under the Park Geun-hye administration.”

“I believe this visit may be an important milestone [in negotiations toward diplomatic relations],” he added.

Yun previously announced plans to pursue normalization of relations with Cuba during a Feb. 2015 appearance before the National Assembly. The South Korean government first formally proposed negotiations to the Cuban government during the Kim Dae-jung administration in 2000.

The first-ever meeting between the South Korean and Cuban foreign ministers came during the UN General Assembly in Sept. 2013 when then-chair country Cuba organized the second Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Troika Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. To date, no foreign ministers’ talks have been held in either Seoul or Havana.

By Lee Je-hun, staff reporter in Havana, Ministry of Foreign Affairs pool report

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