S.Korea to seek talks with N.Korea in preparation for summit

Marco Green
March 18, 2018

Ri's surprise trip to Stockholm has taken on added significance due to the expectation that a summit of Kim and Trump could defuse the tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Donald Trump last week accepted an invitation for direct talks with Mr Kim, a shock announcement from the two leaders who have traded threats and insults for months.

However uncertainty remains over what would be a landmark summit.

The visit has led to speculation that the talks could lay the groundwork for a meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in credited Trump's "maximum pressure" approach, including wide-ranging sanctions on North Korea, for the diplomatic thaw.

"We've made a decision to narrow down the agenda topics to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, securing permanent peace to ease military tension and new, bold ways to take inter-Korean relations forward", Im, the head of South Korea's summit preparation team, told reporters.

Sweden, whose embassy represents United States interests in the North Korean capital, has been touted as a possible venue for the momentous summit between Kim and Trump and Ri's visit fuelled speculation that a Stockholm encounter was in the cards.

Swanström explained that the role of the minister for foreign affairs within the Korean government can not be compared to a foreign minister in a country like Sweden in terms of their stature.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday that Sweden, whose embassy represents United States interests in Pyongyang, was ready to act as a facilitator to help resolve tensions.

"It was a good and constructive atmosphere".

Ri left Pyongyang and flew into a Beijing airport on Thursday.

"They will also address the security situation on the Korean peninsula, which is high on the (UN) Security Council agenda", a ministry statement said. Ri's delegation included Choe Kang Il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's North America section.

Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973, and is now one of the few western countries to have an embassy in Pyongyang.

There was no official word from North Korea since the invitation was delivered via South Korean officials in Washington.

Worldwide media have speculated that Sweden could either help set up a proposed summit or be a potential location if a tete-a-tete were to be confirmed.

"We have always said we want to be a mediator that facilitates this process", he said Friday.

However, as U.S. diplomats worked to set up the presidential visit, it became clear that North Korea and the United States were too far apart on the details of a missile pact to justify handing then-leader Kim Jong Il the huge concession of a Clinton visit.

"They met this morning and discussed the same issues that are being discussed during this trip, such as the security situation", he said. "Then of course the meeting with the U.S. will come up, but we're far away from being able to say it will be in Sweden or it will be somewhere else", Swanström told The Local.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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