Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Sweden says happy to help on North Korea amid summit speculation

North Korean foreign minister heads to Sweden amid summit speculation North Korean Foreign Minister Heads to Sweden
Sammy Stanley | 18 March, 2018, 01:24

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She spoke a day after North Korea's foreign minister landed in Sweden for talks, prompting speculation that the visit could lay the groundwork for a possible meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Ri Yong-ho arrived in the Swedish capital on Thursday evening with Choe Kang-il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's North America section.

Media in Sweden reported last week that Ri is expected to hold talks with the Swedish foreign minister.

Its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, which opened in 1975, was the first Western embassy established in the isolationist country and now represents US, Canadian and Australian diplomatic interests, with Sweden playing a key liaison role.

The source said it was important to build confidence between Washington and Pyongyang, adding: "The United States wants to have help with consular matters and North Korea wants to be sure that no one is going to invade".

"We can't rule out the possibility of a contact between the North and the US" during Ri's visit, a Beijing source told South Korea's Yonhap agency.

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The isolated state has always maintained it will continue to develop its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against US aggression but, according to South Korea, it later said it was open to abandoning the programme if the security of its regime was guaranteed.

Japan was led by Kenji Kanasugi, director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Shuji Yuge, director in charge of global policies at the Japanese Defense Ministry.

The US State Department said it was aware of the meeting in Stockholm, but that Washington would not be taking part.

South Korea and Japan have held their first two-plus-two security talks in almost three years.

Sweden has been rumoured as a possible site for the summit, although a truce village on the South Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone between the Koreas is seen as more likely.

The trip by Ri is being closely watched because a huge amount of preparation needs to be done before the summit. "They will also address the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, which is high on the Security Council agenda", said the Swedish Foreign Ministry in a statement.

It could suggest a potential breakthrough, or a fallback to the North's longstanding position that it's willing to get rid of its nuclear weapons if the United States guarantees its safety.

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