SAO PAULO - Brazil aims to broaden its dialogue with communist North Korea to include discussion of the Asian nation's nuclear weapons program and security on the Korean peninsula, its ambassador in Pyongyang said.
The Latin American giant has been rapidly spreading its diplomatic ties under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, including to countries that have been isolated because of security or human rights issues.
Lula has overseen a warming of ties with Iran and launched a failed diplomatic push to avert new UN sanctions because of Tehran's nuclear program, which drew a skeptical response from the United States.
As with Iran, Brazil views sanctions against North Korea as counterproductive and sees room for more dialogue, Ambassador Arnaldo Carrilho told Reuters by telephone from Pyongyang on Saturday.
"Brazil's central objective is the opening of dialogue in all senses, including about the nuclear question and the permanent war footing of the People's Army," said Carrilho, who began his posting with the opening of Brazil's first embassy in North Korea last year.
"There is still a lot to do and the destiny of Brazil is not small," he said.
While Brazil would look for ways to play a role as a mediator in Korean security issues, Carrilho said there was currently no opportunity to do so.
The opening of Brazil's embassy last July came despite the reclusive North Korea's testing of a nuclear weapon and test-firing of ballistic missiles that prompted renewed international efforts to tighten financial sanctions.
The US administration is now considering fresh financial action to punish Pyongyang over the sinking of a South Korean warship, sources told Reuters last week.
Carrilho said business accords were being discussed with North Korea that included major Brazilian food firms JBS, Brasil Foods and its state agricultural research agency Embrapa. He did not give details on the possible deals.
Bilateral trade between the distant countries reached $215 million in 2009, according to the Brazilian government, which puts Brazil among North Korea's major trade partners after China.
Carrilho also said Brazil is preparing to donate 100,000 tonnes of food to North Korea, including soy, rice, sugar, and powdered milk.
The 71-year-old veteran diplomat said Brazil, which holds a revolving seat on the UN Security Council, was opposed to new sanctions against North Korea, saying they would only make life harder for people there and would not resolve social or security problems.
In line with Brazil's reluctance under Lula to criticize human rights problems or a lack of democracy in other countries, Carrilho said North Korea's one-party system should not get in the way of warmer two-way ties.
"I would never propose a similar regime for Brazil and I don't believe they would want to copy ours," he said.
"You have to respect the cultural and historical circumstances of people if you want your own to be respected."
While Brazil would look for ways to play a role as a mediator in Korean security issues, he said there was currently no opportunity to do so.
Carrilho, a movie buff, aims to expand cultural ties between samba- and football-loving Brazil and the strait-jacketed North Korean society, starting by showing Brazilian films at a Pyongyang film festival.
Last week's World Cup game in which Brazil beat North Korea, 2-1, was a good start, he said.
"Good diplomacy is always about finding meeting points. The game without doubt played a bonding role between the people of both countries," he said.