SEOUL, June 22 (UPI) -- North Korea is stepping up its diplomatic outreach to Cuba and Russia in a bid to curb a possible disaster due to a food shortage, according to analysts.
North Korea's state media said Tuesday top North Korea diplomat Kang Sok Ju left for Cuba, taking a team of Workers' Party representatives with him, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
That same day, according to North Korea's KCNA, People's Central Committee Chairman Choe Thae Bok left for Russia, but North Korea did not give reasons for their separate trips, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.
The paired trips are unprecedented for Pyongyang, and it is unusual for Choe, a high-level official focused on North Korea domestic affairs, to be dispatched on a trip overseas.
Earlier in the month, North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong left Pyongyang for Equatorial Guinea, using China as a transit point.
South Korea media reported Ri did not meet with Chinese officials, a signal that North Korea's relations with China have cooled significantly since Kim Jong Un fully assumed power in early 2012.
Tense relations with South Korea and the United States have also redirected North Korea's charm offensive toward countries like Russia and Cuba, old socialist allies, according to South Korea analysts.
Lee Seok-soo, a researcher at South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy, said that North Korea has concluded that there is "nothing to gain" from dealing with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
"At the moment, they've given up on a dialogue with the South," Lee said.
Nam Sung-wook at Korea University said North Korea is rekindling a traditional alliance with Cuba, because Pyongyang expects Seoul and Havana to draw closer together after a period of isolation.
Nam said a serious drought in North Korea this year has pushed Pyongyang to break out of its seclusion, and that it is likely the main mission of Choe's visit to Russia is to request food aid.