by WorldTribune Staff, March 18, 2018
North Korea dispatched top diplomats separately to Sweden and Finland for what observers say were meetings to lay the groundwork for a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Choe Kang-Il, deputy director-general for North American affairs at the North’s foreign ministry, headed to Finland on March 18 for semiofficial talks with the U.S. and South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers of North Korea and Sweden ended three days of talks on March 18 which were widely expected to deal with the Trump-Kim summit as well as American citizens detained in the North, the Yonhap report said.
Diplomatic sources in Seoul said Choe would meet in Finland with former U.S. diplomats, including former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens, and security experts from South Korea.
Finnish news agency STT reported the talks were to take place at the Japanese Embassy in Helsinki. Kimmo Lahdevirta, head of the Asia desk at the Finnish foreign ministry, said the meeting will be “academic” and “from the perspective of international relations.”
Choe, who was included in North Korea’s high-level delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, has represented Pyongyang on nuclear weapons and relations with the U.S. at international conferences and in western media.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho arrived in Stockholm on March 15 for talks with his Swedish counterpart, Margot Elisabeth Wallstrom.
“The talks focused primarily on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, which is high on the UN Security Council agenda,” the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a March 17 statement.
The ministry also said Ri paid a courtesy call on Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said reported that “The issue of bilateral relations and other issues of mutual concern were discussed at the courtesy call and talks.”