South Korea and Cuba move toward establishing diplomatic relations

Posted on : 2016-06-07 17:03 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
After first trip to Cuba by S. Korean foreign minister, two sides likely to follow up with deliberations
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se meets with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the Palacio de Convenciones
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se meets with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the Palacio de Convenciones

During a meeting with his Cuban counterpart in Havana on June 5, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se apparently communicated Seoul’s sincere desire to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Yun is the first South Korean Foreign Minister to visit the country.

There were no reports about the initial reaction offered by Cuba, which has a special relationship with North Korea and considers the North a “brother country.” Rather than moving directly into negotiations about normalizing relations, South Korea and Cuba are likely to follow up the meeting of foreign ministers with a number of subsequent deliberations.

Yun met Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the Palacio de Convenciones, a Cuban government building in Havana, on Monday.

“I emphasized that the time has come to further realize the potential that our two countries have, and I expressed our intention of moving in that direction,” Yun told reporters immediately after the meeting. Yun’s use of the phrase “the time to realize our potential” presumably expressed a desire to normalize diplomatic relations.

“The meeting ran for 75 minutes - an unusually long period of time - and the mood was very amiable, serious and candid,” Yun emphasized.

“They talked about issues of mutual interest, including bilateral issues, global cooperation and personnel exchange. We said everything that we wanted to say, and the Cubans were seriously engaged in the conversation,” said a source who was present at the meeting.

During the meeting, Yun explained the significance of his visit to Cuba by quoting Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“The Cubans were very pleased by Yun’s remark,” the source said.

Yun did not say exactly how Rodriguez had responded to the idea of normalizing Cuba‘s relations with South Korea. “Personally, I felt that a tacit bond was forming between us,” he said.

“As they say, well begun is half done. Moving forward, we’re thinking about following up with a variety of deliberations,” Yun said, suggesting that the two countries had not immediately initiated negotiations for establishing official diplomatic relations.

The two countries are likely to use a number of ongoing deliberations, including meetings between senior officials, to speed up the normalization process.

In Feb. 2015, Yun announced to the National Assembly that he would push to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The South Korean government made its first official overture to Cuba about discussing the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2000, during the presidency of Kim Dae-jung.

By Kim Jin-cheol, staff reporter

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