Venezuela's Chavez planning arms-for-oil trip to N. Korea

Special to World
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

North Korea and Venezuela are discussing a strategic alliance motivated by a common goal � expanding anti-American forces.

During Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in late July, the two countries are also expected to craft an oil-for-arms deal.

Venezuela's leader is most likely to fly to Pyongyang at the end of July on the occasion of his planned trip to Russia on July 25. Chavez told reporters that he plans to discuss science and technology cooperation with the North.

Analysts in Seoul say Kim and Chavez would mainly discuss forming a "strategic alliance" against the United States.

Ties between the two nations have been warming. Last September, Yang Hyoung-Sup, deputy head of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, traveled to Venezuela, followed by an economic delegation's visit in November led by Trade Minister Rim Kyong-Man.

Venezuela set up its first-ever permanent ambassadorial post in Pyongyang in April, 32 years after bilateral ties were forged in 1974.

Venezuela's Foreign Ministry delegation traveled to the North in May. "North Korea is expected to establish its embassy in Venezuela in the near future," a diplomatic source said.

Chavez, who has promised a socialist revolution to end poverty in his country, is forging alliances with such U.S. foes as Cuba, Iran, North Korea and some African countries.

Since Chavez took office, the leftist government has been working to move away from the U.S. "shadow" and sell its oil in exchange for a military build up. Chavez was first elected president in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000.

Chavez claimed in September 2005 that the United States was preparing to attack North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. He has aggressively supported Iran's efforts to develop nuclear technology and has helped undermine the U.S. embargo of Cuba by increasing trade and providing oil to the communist island on favorable terms.

During the planned summit, Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil-rich country, is expected to offer energy resources to North Korea, which suffers from energy shortages after the United States halted heavy oil supplies following the North's admission of nuclear weapons programs.

In return, North Korea can offer conventional weapons and missiles to Venezuela, which is looking to fortify its military power.

Copyright � 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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