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(LEAD) S. Korean FM makes first visit to Cuba

All News 15:00 June 05, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with foreign minister's interview; CHANGES dateline; ADDS byline)
By Lee Haye-ah and Joint Press Corps

HAVANA, June 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se arrived in Cuba Saturday on a visit symbolic of Seoul's push to build ties with the Caribbean state with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Yun's two-day trip to Havana comes as South Korea has been forging stronger ties with countries that have traditionally had close ties with North Korea, such as Uganda and Iran.

Cuba formally recognized South Korea in 1949, shortly after its independence from Japanese colonial rule, but their bilateral relations have effectively been cut off since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and forged an alliance with the North.

Yun is the first South Korean foreign minister to visit the Caribbean state. So far, he is scheduled to attend a summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and hold meetings with some of his counterparts from the participating nations.

"Until now, especially under the Park Geun-hye administration, South Korea and Cuba have made various efforts to improve relations, albeit quietly," Yun told South Korean reporters in Havana. "My visit itself symbolizes that and I expect it to become another important milestone."

Yun also expressed hope that the two sides will "reach the goal they want" by continuing to build trust through increased exchanges in various fields.

On South Korea's relations with the Caribbean states, Yun said his attendance at the ACS summit is a demonstration of Seoul's efforts to strengthen ties with the region. President Park Geun-hye also made a trip to South America last year.

The minister noted a high potential for cooperation in areas such as sustainable development, climate change and tourism infrastructure, saying South Korea is considering ways to help address the growing danger posed by sand erosion on the region's coastlines.

The ACS, which comprises 25 member nations, was established in 1995. South Korea has joined ACS gatherings as an observer country since 1998.

hague@yna.co.kr
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