Chavez to visit DPRK (but not soon)

Update: Chavez  has postponed his visit to the DPRK. 


Venezuela’s Chavez Says Visit to North Korea Planned, No Dates

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he still plans to visit North Korea but gave no dates for a possible visit.

Chavez, 51, said last month he planned to visit North Korea during a tour starting today that will also take him to Argentina, Belorussia, Russia, Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali. North Korea was subsequently dropped from his agenda without any reason being given.

“It’s still in our plans” to visit North Korea, Chavez said during a press conference today before leaving for Argentina. He gave no indication when a visit could take place.

North Korea earlier this month defied international appeals led by the U.S., China, Japan and South Korea and test-fired seven missiles, including a Taepodong 2 that may be able to reach Alaska. Some Venezuelan officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Mari Pili Hernandez, said North Korea had a right to test the missiles.

Chavez criticized countries such as the U.S. for condemning North Korea’s missile tests, while not criticizing Israel’s incursion into Lebanon.

While in Moscow, Venezuela will sign several defense accords, including one for the purchase of Sukhoi Su-30 military jets, and others to manufacture Russian munitions in the country, Chavez said.

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela will also sign an agreement in Mali to help that African nation explore for oil, Chavez said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez also suffered a “pre-heart attack” today and was hospitalized, Chavez said. Rodriguez, 68, formerly served as secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and president of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

from the Korea Herald 6/27/2006:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed last week he plans to visit North Korea next month.

During a visit to Panama, Chavez told reporters that he will be going to the North to discuss science and technology cooperation.

He is most likely to fly to Pyongyang at the end of next month on the occasion of his planned trip to Russia on July 25.

North Korea and Venezuela have been giving signs that they were getting chummier since last year.

Last September, Yang Hyoung-sup, deputy head of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea visited Venezuela, followed by a trip by an economic delegation in November which returned a trade pact.

Venezuela set up its first-ever permanent ambassadorial post in Pyongyang since their bilateral ties were forged in 1974. Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry delegation traveled to the North in May.

Observers say such flurry of exchanges can be the two countries’ “strategic alliance” against the United States.

North Korea, for its part, is protesting Washington’s financial block of its foreign currency exchange channel in Macau, and threatening a missile launch that could hit parts of Alaska.

Pyongyang has long been citing Washington’s “hostility” and “threat of attack” as its reason to build up nuclear weapons programs, or in boycotting nuclear talks.

The United States branded the North part of an “axis of evil” in 2001.

In the meeting next month in Pyongyang, Chavez is likely to see eye-to-eye with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il their alliance against the United States.

While Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest oil-rich country, can offer energy resources to deprived North Korea, North Korea can offer conventional type weapons and missiles to Venezuela, which is looking to fortify its military power.

But observers hinted the strategic alliance may fall short of turning into a long-term comradeship.

“In order to create the anti-U.S. frontline sought by the North and Venezuela, there must be participation from European countries. As there is high possibility of their alliance splitting, it must be watched whether their cooperation will continue,” Prof. Kim Ki-jeong of Yonsei University was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.


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