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North Korea nuclear crisis

North Korea’s top foreign minister arrives in Sweden for talks that could set up Trump-Kim summit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 2:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 5:38am

North Korea’s top diplomat arrived in Sweden on Thursday for two days of talks which could play a role in setting up a proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport around 6.15pm local time before being whisked away in a diplomatic motorcade.

Ri is to hold talks with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom – whose country represents US interests in Pyongyang – on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a possible summit between Trump and Kim, and the fate of three Americans detained in the North.

Sweden, which is not a member of the US-led Nato military alliance, has been mentioned as a potential location for a possible face-to-face meeting between Trump and Kim.

The Scandinavian country has long-standing ties with North Korea. Its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang was the first Western embassy established in the country, in 1975.

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“If it is the case that the main players want Sweden to play a role, to facilitate, to be a forum or a link or whatever else, we are prepared to do that,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told Swedish news agency TT.

“But it must be the main players who decide, in that case, what role Sweden will have.”

A source with knowledge of the meeting added: “This meeting will hopefully lead to clarity about what North Korea wants from a high-level meeting and what the time-frame is and what the conditions will be – for example, should there be any preliminary meetings.

“It is not even certain that North Korea wants to have a meeting.”

Sweden’s foreign ministry would not comment on the possibility of a Trump, saying in a statement only that the talks would “focus on Sweden’s consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia.”

“They will also address the security situation on the Korean peninsula, which is high on the (UN) Security Council agenda,” it said. 

Sweden acts as diplomatic representative in North Korea for the United States, which has no embassy there, and has helped with the release of US citizens held by the reclusive state.

It is also currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and in a statement its foreign ministry noted that the council had unanimously condemned North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes and demanded their “complete, verifiable and irrevocable elimination”.

“Sweden fully supports the Security Council resolutions. The aim of the visit is to contribute to the effective implementation of the resolutions,” the ministry said.

Ri was travelling with Choe Kang-il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry’s North America section, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“We can’t rule out the possibility of a contact between the North and the US” during Ri’s trip to Sweden, a Beijing source told the news agency.

The Swedish foreign ministry has said there would not be any press conferences during his visit but that it would publish a statement on Friday evening after the conclusion of talks.