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North Korea

Talks between North Korea and Sweden end – and could pave way for Trump-Kim encounter

The foreign ministers discussed ‘efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict as well as bilateral relations,’ the Swedish foreign ministry said

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 2:35am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 2:35am

North Korean and Swedish foreign ministers ended three days of talks on Saturday on the security situation on the Korean peninsula which may help prepare the way for a planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

North Korea’s Ri Yong-ho arrived in Stockholm on Thursday for talks with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom amid a flurry of diplomatic activity concerning the reclusive country and its nuclear ambitions.

Trump reaffirmed on Friday that he was willing to meet Kim after South Korean officials passed on an invitation earlier this month. North Korea has so far not publicly acknowledged the invitation.

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“The foreign ministers discussed opportunities and challenges for continued diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict as well as bilateral relations,” the Swedish foreign ministry said in a statement after Ri and Wallstrom wound up their talks.

“Sweden underlined the need for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arms and missiles programme in line with several Security Council resolutions.”

The talks in Stockholm had initially been expected to conclude on Friday but were extended into the weekend.

“The dialogue has been constructive,” a source with knowledge of the discussions said. “It should be seen as a positive sign that the meeting was extended (until Saturday).”

The source said that Sweden had been in close touch with the United States and South Korea before the Stockholm meetings and hoped the talks would lead to further progress towards defusing tensions.

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“Sweden will continue to do what it can, but it is the protagonists themselves who have to drive the process forward,” the source said.

Sweden is one of a handful of countries considered a possible venue for a meeting between Trump and Kim, who have engaged in bellicose mudslinging over North Korea and its nuclear arms programme.

Besides hopes of defusing the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the prospect of a meeting between Trump and Kim has raised speculation that three Americans who remain detained in North Korea could be released.

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Trump reaffirmed his plan to meet Kim by the end of May during a phone call on Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and both voiced “cautious optimism” about efforts to resolve the stand-off.

Meanwhile, South Korea has said that it is seeking high-level talks this month with the North to prepare for a bilateral summit and that Moon may meet Trump before the US president’s planned meeting with the North Korean leader.