Checkpoint Asia

Venezuela Looks to North Korea for Support – Opens First Embassy in Pyongyang

The club of the embargoed

The deterioration of Venezuela’s relations with the Western world, imposition of harsh Western economic sanctions and open calls for regime change by the United States and many of its allies have led Caracas to strengthen ties with a number of Western adversaries since 2017.

The country’s ties with Russia and China in particular have been highly prolific, the former providing for its security and even briefly dispatching nuclear capable heavy bombers to the country while the latter has provided considerable quantities of aid and economic assistance.

A quieter but less conspicuous partnership which has been built has been that between Venezuela and North Korea, which has its roots in the East Asian state’s long history of supporting proclaimed socialist or anti-imperialist movements in Latin America.

In December 2018 North Korean Presidium President and Head of State Kim Yong Nam paid a state visit to Caracas, and it was widely speculated that defence and economic cooperation was under discussion. North Korea opened an embassy in Caracas four years prior.

Although both states adhere to socialist ideology, the implementation of this in each has been very different – a key example being that the large majority of North Korea’s economy is state run, where in Venezuela private enterprise continues to dominate.

While the Korean Workers’ Party is the oldest ruling party in the world, celebrating 70 years in power in 2018, Venezuela’s political and economic stability has been tenuous at best.

Despite their considerable differences, a common threat faced by the two countries is likely to facilitate a move towards unprecedented levels of interstate cooperation.

Venezuela’s heavily rentier oriented economy in particular, which relies almost exclusively on oil exports for revenue, could potentially benefit from Korean assistance in industrialisation and manufacturing while North Korea in turn could benefit from access to Venezuelan fossil fuels.

Furthering a trend towards grater cooperation, on August 21st 2019 Venezuela opened its first embassy in Pyongyang which was attended by the deputy foreign ministers of both states.

Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Ruben Dario Molina stated at the event: “the people and leaders of Venezuela and the North Korea have become a target for attacks and threats by North American imperialism, which seeks to put us on their knees because of our implacable ideology and the desire to achieve economic and social progress.

Therefore, we speak to the immigrants and their allies: you will not be able to stop us, and you will not be able to take away our bright future.”

His Korean counterpart Pak Myung Guk stated: “the government of the DPRK (North Korea) is constantly in its desire to expand and develop a relationship of friendship and cooperation with Venezuela, which are being placed in the flame of the general anti-imperialist struggle for independence and socialism.”

He further stressed that his country “will continue to provide comprehensive assistance and support to the government and people of Venezuela in their efforts to protect their state.”

Like Syria, which has also received considerable Korean assistance in recent years and reportedly is looking to Pyongyang as a potential model for post-war development, Venezuela may seek to look to the Korean economic and political systems to amend significant deficiencies in its own – which have left its economy and its government particularly vulnerable in recent years.

The extent to which the East Asian state’s systems will be applicable to the Latin American state remains uncertain.

Source: Military Watch