Monday, 20 May, 2019

North Korean foreign minister begins Sweden trip

North Korean foreign minister visits Sweden North Korean foreign minister begins Sweden trip
Patty Aguilar | 17 March, 2018, 20:16

Niklas Swanstrom of the Stockholm-based Institute for Security and Development Policy said the meeting between the two foreign ministers would only be preliminary to higher-level talks but they could give an indication of North Korea's interests and demands.

Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973 and is one of the few Western countries with an embassy in Pyongyang.

Abe met South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon on Tuesday to discuss a summit between Trump and Kim by the end of May.

Ri Yong Ho held talks in Stockholm with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom a week after the US President agreed to a historic summit with the North Korean leader.

U.S. President Donald Trump's sacking of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is raising concerns that the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will have to be postponed.

The historically neutral European country, whose embassy represents USA interests in the North Korean capital, has often played the role of intermediary in discussions between Washington and Pyongyang.

The meeting will also draw on the push for the U.S.' conditions-based return of its wartime operational control of South Korean forces as well as other alliance and defense issues, it said.

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North Korea's foreign minister arrived in Sweden Thursday for talks with his Swedish counterpart.

"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. North Korea is also facing a raft of United Nations sanctions over the tests.

"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".

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

"We shouldn't be naive and believe it is Sweden that solves these problems", Lofven added.

In its statement, Sweden's foreign ministry noted that the U.N. Security Council had unanimously condemned North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programmes and demanded the "complete, verifiable and irrevocable elimination of these programmes". -North Korea interactions, but stressed it was up to the countries concerned to decide "which way we are going".

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