Japan’s Abe meets Fidel Castro, seeks Cuba’s help in taming North Korea

Japan’s Abe meets Fidel Castro, seeks Cuba’s help in taming North Korea
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has called on Cuba, one of North Korea’s allies, to denounce the country’s troubling nuclear program and use leverage to stop it, as he met with the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in Havana during his first-ever visit to the country.

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Abe has become the first Japanese leader to come to the island state since the Cuban revolution of the 1950s, spearheaded by Castro, who served as president for four decades. The visit falls in line with the strategy of gradual rapprochement with the West pursued by Fidel’s younger brother and Cuba’s current leader, Raul Castro. The policy reached its culminating point with US President Barack Obama traveling to the country in March on an official state visit, the first by a US leader in 88 years.

Prior to the ongoing UN General Assembly session, Japan’ s PM vowed to “take the leadership toward a new UN resolution” on North Korea, which had recently carried out its fifth nuclear test in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. While addressing the session he called the danger posed by the North’s nuclear rapid nuclear development "substantially more serious" than ever.

The issue was also high on the agenda during more than an hour-long meeting with Fidel Castro on Thursday. 

"The PM pointed out the necessity [for] the international community to respond to this [North Korea’s nuclear test] rigorously in unity," Japan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura said after the meeting, as cited by Reuters.

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In an interview with Cuba’s Communist Party Granma newspaper, Abe described Cuba as a “great influence among the non-aligned countries” adding that he will strive to discuss a wide range of topics, including “nuclear disarmament,” the “situation in Asia” and the “reform of the UN Security Council” during his visit.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed in 1961 and was initially aimed at representing the interests of developing countries that did not want take sides in the Cold War and join either of the power blocs. North Korea has been a member of the group since 1976.   

In turn, Castro underscored the importance of the peace talks aimed at tackling the problem of nuclear proliferation through dialogue rather than coercion.

Apart from securing Cuba’s support in the conflict with North Korea, Abe intended to boost the bilateral trade, investment and lay the foundation for increase in tourist flows.

As a step on the road towards more intense cooperation, Abe’s government has agreed to write off a part of Cuba’s debt, decreasing it to $606 million, from which, $249 million remain in Cuba’s economy, as they will form an investment fund for Japan’s companies working there.

"I believe firmly that Japanese companies can, as reliable partners, make a notable contribution to a Cuba that is updating its socio-economic model," Abe stressed, following a meeting with Raul Castro on Thursday.

Meanwhile, South Korea has suggested excluding North Korea form the ranks of the UN member states as it “ridicules” the status of the General Assembly and the Security Council with its “unprecedented” violations of the international law and questionable human rights record.

“I believe it is high time to seriously reconsider whether North Korea is qualified as a peace-loving U.N. member, as many countries are already questioning,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, taking the floor at the UN on Thursday.