Thursday 19 July 2018

North Korean minister holds ‘constructive’ talks in Sweden

The meeting fuelled growing speculation about a possible meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho (Vilhelm Stokstad /TT/AP)
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho (Vilhelm Stokstad /TT/AP)

By Jan M Olsen and David Keyton

Sweden’s foreign minister has held what she called “good and constructive” talks with her North Korean counterpart amid growing speculation about a possible meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Margot Wallstrom refused to comment on whether she and North Korea’s Ri Yong Ho discussed a Trump-Kim meeting in brief comments as she left the Stockholm villa where the meeting took place.

The building is close to the embassies of South Korea and the US.

“We’ll see what happens next,” Ms Wallstrom said.

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Ms Wallstrom said Sweden is hoping to 'use our role and also our contacts' (Soren Andersson/TT/AP)

Mr Ri has not made any public comment during a visit to Stockholm that started late on Thursday. He also held a brief meeting earlier on Friday with Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven.

Ms Wallstrom earlier said Sweden is hoping to “use our role and also our contacts”, but stressed that it is up to the countries concerned to decide “which way we are going”.

She said that “we value this opportunity to arrange a meeting”, although she did not specify what she meant.

Mr Lofven, speaking at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, did not answer directly whether his country had US support to organise talks with North Korea.

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

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Trump US Sweden

The US president has agreed to meet the North Korean leader by May. So far, Pyongyang has yet to comment publicly on what it hopes to gain from the talks.

Sweden has been rumoured as a possible site for the summit, although a truce village on the South Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone between the Koreas is seen as more likely.

Mr Ri’s visit to Stockholm, where he once served as a diplomat at the North Korean embassy, has been shrouded in secrecy.

The Swedish foreign ministry said ahead of his visit that talks would focus on “Sweden’s consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia”, but would also address the security situation on the Korean peninsula.

Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973 and is one of few Western countries with an embassy in Pyongyang. It provides consular services for the US in North Korea.

The trip by Mr Ri is being closely watched because a huge amount of preparation needs to be done before the summit.

Senior South Korean officials who travelled to Pyongyang this month and met Mr Kim say he is willing to discuss the North’s nuclear weapons programme.

That could suggest a potential breakthrough, or a fallback to the North’s long-standing position that it is willing to get rid of its nuclear weapons if the US guarantees its safety.

In the past, that has meant Washington would have to withdraw all of its troops from South Korea, a condition no US president has been willing to consider.

Press Association

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