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N. Korea's foreign minister visits Sweden

March 16, 2018

North Korea's top diplomat met with his Swedish counterpart in a surprise visit to Stockholm. The visit has led to speculation that the talks could lay the groundwork for a meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

North Korean flags
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/W. Maye-E

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho arrived in Sweden on Thursday for previously unannounced talks with his Swedish counterpart, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom.

In talks that started Thursday and are expected to continue on Friday, the North Korean and Swedish delegations will discuss several topics, including the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, a spokesperson for the Swedish Foreign Ministry said.

The visit sparked speculation that the Ri's two-day trip to Stockholm could set the foundation for a possible meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho arrives in Stockholm for talks
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho arrived in Sweden on ThursdayImage: Getty Images/AFP/C. Bas-Wohlert

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It's still unclear where the meeting would take place, but Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Thursday that Stockholm was willing to facilitate the talks.

"The main actors South Korea, North Korea, China, the US and Japan have to agree on the substance," he said. "We have said that if we can support such a process, we are prepared to do so."

The talks in Stockholm will also involve Sweden's consular responsibilities in North Korea, which include representing US diplomatic interests.

Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973 and is one of the few Western countries with an embassy in Pyongyang.

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Seeking clarity on Pyongyang's position

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

"We don't have any information that that meeting is about what we anticipate to be a meeting between the United States, other parties, and North Korea," department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a press conference.

"We are not sending any representation," she said, adding that the United States was preparing for the summit in good faith, but has yet to hear from Pyongyang on the matter.

Ri's visit to Sweden comes a week after the shock announcement that Trump accepted an invitation to meet Kim by May.

No date yet

No date has yet been set and a location for the meeting has not yet been determined — although Sweden and the truce village on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries are possible contenders.

North Korea has yet to publicly comment on what it hopes to gain from the talks, leading some to view the offer for talks with skepticism.

The offer for a meeting comes after months of escalating rhetoric between Trump and Kim over North Korea's repeated missile and nuclear tests. North Korea is also facing a raft of United Nations sanctions over the tests.

If the summit actually takes place, it will be the first time that any concurrent sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States have met.

Korea: Ready to talk

rs/sms   (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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