Trudeau says Cuba could help defuse tensions with North Korea

Cuba could play a key role in defusing the continuing confrontation between North Korea and the US by working with Canada, according to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

Answering questions following an unrelated event in Charlottetown, on Canada’s Prince Edward Island on November 23, he said that he had discussed the issue with Cuba’s President, Raul Castro, when they had met in Havana in 2016.

“I’ve had surprising conversations with places you wouldn’t expect, including places like Cuba, where they actually have … decent diplomatic relations with the North Korean regime,” Mr Trudeau said. He then went on to add: “And can we pass along messages through surprising conduits? There hasn’t been huge amount of discussion around that, but it was a topic of conversation when I met President Raul Castro last year.”

Mr Trudeau’s comments came as the North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, and a high-level delegation, paid a week-long official visit to Cuba during which he met with President Castro and held talks with Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez.

Official Cuban reports which described both ‘Comrade Ri Yong Ho’ and Mr Rodriguez as members of their respective nation’s Politburo, suggests that the discussions took place on a fraternal party to party basis and in an atmosphere of trust.

Apart from reiterating the two countries positive bilateral relations, and traditional friendship, the communique issued by Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the encounters noted that ‘both ministers expressed respect for the peaceful settlement of disputes and non-interference in the internal affairs of States’.

Expressing concern over the escalation of tensions and the increased military activity in the Korean Peninsula, the communique also said that both governments rejected the unilateral and arbitrary lists and designations established by the US government which serve as a basis for the implementation of coercive measures’.

Cuban media reports said that in the meeting with his North Korean counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez said that Cuba was “in favour of peace and stability” and that “only after dialogue and negotiations can a lasting political solution be achieved.”

As Cuba Briefing has reported previously, there have over the last eighteen months been frequent high-level exchanges between Cuba and North Korea (See Cuba Briefing July 4, 2016 and November 20, 2017 for background).

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, also met with the Cuba’s First Vice President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, in early September of this year on the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Cuba maintains an embassy in North Korea but trades mostly with South Korea. Last year, bilateral trade with the South was reportedly worth US$67m and just US$9m with the North.

Canadian diplomats were among those targeted by the mysterious sonic attacks first reported last month, said to have begun in 2016.

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region

The publication is available internationally on a subscription-only basis. 

Photo Credit: DoD News, ‘170923-D-DB155-041’,, Flickr