North Korea

Sweden says ‘we don’t think we can solve world’s problems’ after meeting with North Korea on denuclearisation

The European country has long-standing ties with the reclusive Asian nation. Its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, which opened in 1975, was the first Western embassy established in the country

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 7:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 8:21pm

North Korea’s foreign minister held talks in Stockholm with Swedish leader Stefan Lofven on Friday amid reports Sweden could play a role in setting up a proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

“They had a meeting. We will not disclose what they talked about,” said Lofven’s spokesman Jonatan Holst.

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.

Ri held talks late on Thursday with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom, discussions that according to Swedish officials were to focus on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and a possible Trump-Kim summit. The talks were to continue on Friday.

“Right now, dialogue is needed and we are happy to have this meeting. But we’re not naive, we don’t think we can solve the world’s problems. It is up the parties to decide how to move forward,” Wallstrom told Swedish media in parliament on Friday.

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“If we can use our contacts in the best way, we will do so,” she said, noting the situation on the Korean peninsula was “of interest to us all” in terms of security.

Some Swedish and foreign media have said that Ri – who was stationed at North Korea’s embassy in Stockholm in 1985-1988 – will stay in the Scandinavian country until Sunday for other talks, though Swedish officials would not confirm those reports.

“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.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT meanwhile said the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) was involved in the talks, though SIPRI did not return AFP’s calls for a comment.

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

The embassy also represents US, Canadian and Australian diplomatic interests in North Korea, with Sweden playing a key role in liaising diplomatic talks.

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

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Sweden’s foreign ministry has refused to comment on that possibility, saying 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,” a ministry statement said. Sweden is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

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“The aim of the visit is to contribute to the effective implementation of the resolutions” voted by the Security Council against Pyongyang over its nuclear programme, as well as those calling “for intensified diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict”.

After months of tension and warmongering over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, Trump has agreed to a summit proposal relayed by South Korean envoys who met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.

But no specific time or venue has been set and North Korea has yet to confirm it even made the offer to meet.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Friday said it will seek another round of high-level talks with North Korea this month in preparation for a full-scale summit, the presidential chief of staff said.

Officials of the two Koreas will discuss key agenda topics and other matters related to the pending summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim, Moon’s presidential chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, told a media briefing.

“We’ve decided to narrow down the agenda topics to denuclearising the Korean peninsula, securing permanent peace to ease military tension and new, bold ways to take inter-Korean relations forward,” said Im, who is head of the preparation team.

Additional reporting by Reuters