Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Seoul aims for more talks about talks with North Korea

Four days after the surprise announcement that President Trump has agreed to meet the North’s Kim Jong Un by May Washington has yet to hear directly from Pyongyang on the invitation extended by Kim via South Korean intermediaries Seoul aims for more talks about talks with North Korea
Patty Aguilar | 17 March, 2018, 03:03

Ri's surprise trip to Stockholm has taken on added significance due to the expectation that a summit of Kim and Trump could defuse the tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

US President Donald Trump has reaffirmed his plan to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by the end of May during a call with South Korea's president, voicing "cautious optimism" over recent developments, the White House says.

They also agreed that a "brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the right path", the White House stated.

South Korea's President's remarks come amid concerns from Japan that it may be left behind in the speedy diplomacy on the North.

The summit was also discussed Friday in Washington by the top diplomats from South Korea, Japan and the U.S. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono met separately with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who is serving as Acting Secretary of State after Rex Tillerson was sacked by the president earlier this week. "Let's see what happens", he said.

The isolated state has always maintained it will continue to develop its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against U.S. aggression but, according to South Korea, it later said it was open to abandoning the programme if the security of its regime was guaranteed.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho arrived in the Swedish capital on Thursday for talks with Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom. Its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, which opened in 1975, was the first Western embassy established in the isolationist country and now represents US, Canadian and Australian diplomatic interests, with Sweden playing a key liaison role.

Neither side revealed the nature of their meeting, which comes at a time of intense uncertainty about North Korea.

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Ri's delegation included Choe Kang Il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's North America section.

Admiral Harry Harris told the US Senate Armed Services Committee he believed the United States would stick to its demand for the "complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula.

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

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

TBS said Abe told Moon he wanted North Korea to not only suspend nuclear and missile testing, but also accept International Atomic Energy Inspectors on its soil. However, in the light of the diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang, South Korea and the U.S. will scale down and shorten annual joint military exercises.

He also asked Seoul to raise the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North.

President Donald Trump still intends to meet with North Korea's leader by the end of May, the White House said Friday, three days after the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CNBC reports.

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