The United Nations is investigating a potentially illegal military agreement between North Korea and its ally Venezuela, Reuters revealed, leading to calls from the government of President Juan Guaidó for the world to repudiate the socialist regime.
While Guaidó is legally the president of Venezuela, dictator Nicolás Maduro controls the nation’s military and law enforcement apparatus. Both Guaidó and Maduro are running simultaneous, parallel diplomatic operations; Guaidó’s diplomats operate in the countries that recognize him as president, while Maduro’s operate in the communist states that recognize him.
Reuters claimed to have obtained letters directed to Maduro’s representative at the United Nations, Samuel Moncada, asking for details about agreements signed between Pyongyang and Caracas during a visit to the Asian nation by Diosdado Cabello, a senior Maduro henchman and U.S.-sanctioned drug trafficker. Maduro and Cabello both openly boasted of diplomatic agreements signed at that meeting, though without providing details.
Excerpts Reuters published of the two letters reportedly demanded Moncada clarify that the agreements abided by the strict sanctions placed on North Korea, which were greatly strengthened after its last nuclear weapons test in September 2017. The main concern appeared to be the potential of a military agreement with North Korea. While the U.N. does not block humanitarian aid and some economic activity, much potential engagement with the North Korean military is a violation of international law for member states.
“Taking into consideration that such cooperation is a recognized way for the DPRK [North Korea] to violate relevant U.N. resolutions, the Panel would like to request a response … concerning information regarding above suspected cooperation,” panel coordinator Alastair Morgan wrote in the letter, Reuters reported, allegedly sent in mid-June.
It is not clear if Maduro’s regime responded in any way to the letters.
In response to the report, Guaidó’s top diplomat Julio Borges accused Maduro of attempting to “weave undemocratic alliances” to worsen the human rights situation on a global scale.
“This confirms that the regime only seeks to weave undemocratic alliances to destabilize and violate international law,” Borges wrote on Twitter. “Maduro has turned [Venezuela] into a hub of crime and destruction that has expanded beyond the region. This demands a consensus on resounding action.”
Reuters claimed it could not confirm the existence of a military agreement between Maduro and North Korea. Yet Maduro himself announced a military deal with Pyongyang in a broadcast in late September and early October 2019, when Cabello was in Pyongyang.
“Diosdado has just informed me of agreements concluded in all areas — technology, industry, military cooperation,” Maduro announced.
Maduro’s vague comment is the most information publicly available on the deal. Through its state propaganda arms, North Korea was careful not to divulge details. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a communist state outlet, did report that the country hosted a reception to welcome Cabello, who also toured China and Vietnam during that trip.
“Addressing the event [the reception], [legislative leader] Pak Thae Song said that the Party, government, and people of Venezuela are achieving successes in the struggle for the victorious advance of the Bolivarian revolution, foiling the sanctions and sabotages by hostile forces,” KCNA claimed. “He expressed belief that the militant friendship and fraternal ties forged between the two countries on the road of anti-imperialist independence would invariably grow stronger.”
Maduro’s diplomatic arm published photos of Cabello arriving in Pyongyang on September 24.
KCNA also reported that Cabello arrived with a personal gift to dictator Kim Jong-un from Maduro.
“The personal letter and gift were conveyed to Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, first vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, by Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Constituent Assembly and first vice-chairman of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela who is the head of the party and government high-level delegation of Venezuela, on Wednesday.”
Socialist Venezuela has endeavored to maintain close ties to North Korea since late dictator Hugo Chávez took power. Prior to Cabello’s visit, Kim Yong-nam, the president of North Korea’s puppet legislature at the time, visited Caracas and signed more diplomatic deals of contents unknown. Kim met personally with Maduro for “an important work meeting … in which we agreed to strengthen diplomatic and political relations between the two states,” according to Maduro.
The sanctions currently in place over North Korea took hold in 2017 and were the product of a major victory on the part of the Trump administration, convincing North Korea’s closest allies, Russia and China, to sign on. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to impose significant sanctions on popular exports from the country like seafood and pivotal ones like refined petroleum.
A study published last year found that the sanctions cut North Korea’s trade volume by half in 2018.
Photo: YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images