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(2nd LD) S. Korean FM to join Caribbean states summit in Cuba

All News 23:22 June 04, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info throughout)

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will visit Cuba over the weekend to attend a summit for Caribbean countries, officials here said Saturday.

It marks the first time for a South Korean foreign minister to make an official visit to Cuba, with whom Seoul has no formal diplomatic relations.

Yun is to join the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) summit, which is to kick off on Saturday local time, for a two-day run in Havana, according to the ministry.

South Korea was invited as an observer country by the 20-member ACS that was launched in 1995. It has attended the gathering as an observer since 1998.

Yun's visit draws keen attention as it could help pave the way for Seoul to forge ties with Havana. The island nation recognized the newly born South Korea in 1949, but diplomatic relations have been severed since 1959 when Fidel Castro took over the country.

Cuba is one of very few countries with which South Korea does not have any diplomatic relations. Havana has diplomatic ties with North Korea.

"His visit (to Cuba) is in line with the so-called network diplomacy toward Latin America," the ministry said. "We expect that it will serve as a good opportunity to build connectivity with Caribbean states with which there have been few high-level talks."

The ministry did not mention any possible bilateral talks with high-ranking officials from Cuba, only to say that there will be chances for Yun to meet with leaders and his counterparts from countries participating in the summit.

Yun earlier expressed his wish to normalize ties with Cuba. The Seoul government has been stepping up its push to expand contact with the Latin American country in diverse areas.

Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul is currently in Havana on behalf of Yun, whose schedule had not been determined until the last moment since he had to accompany President Park Geun-hye on a trip through three African countries and France.


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