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North Korean foreign minister set to visit Cuba

© AFP | North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho travels to Cuba at a time both Pyongyang and Havana have tense relations with the United States

HAVANA (AFP) - 

North Korea's foreign minister is to visit Cuba on Monday in a trip that comes at a time when both Pyongyang and Havana have strained relations with Washington.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho will meet with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and participate in other unspecified activities, according to a brief statement late Saturday from Cuba's foreign ministry.

The visit comes as Washington and Pyongyang are locked in a dangerous standoff over North Korea's development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the continental United States.

Washington's ties with Havana were only fully restored in 2015 after a half-century Cold War breakdown, but have been strained since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Communist Cuba is one of North Korea's few remaining allies.

Cuba's historic leader Fidel Castro visited North Korea in 1986 to meet founder-leader Kim Il-Sung, and Pyongyang held three days of official mourning when Castro died in November 2016.

North Korea sent a delegation led by Choe Ryong-Hae, a senior aide to its leader Kim Jong-Un, to Havana for Castro's funeral.

In May, President Raul Castro expressed his solidarity with the Pyongyang regime to visiting North Korean dignitary Ju Yong-gil.

Cuba in the past has flouted international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

In 2013 Panama seized a North Korean ship carrying an undeclared Cuban arms shipment of Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.

North Korea insisted the weapons were being shipped for repair, prior to their return.

© 2017 AFP