North Korean foreign minister in Sweden amid speculation


Tokyo's insistence on including discussion of the abductions by North Korean agents could cause friction between Japan, South Korea and the United States if Seoul or Washington were willing to cut a denuclearisation deal with Pyongyang separate from any abduction pact.

Sweden, whose embassy represents USA interests in the North Korean capital, has been touted as a possible venue for the momentous summit between Kim and Trump, and the visit will fuel speculation that a Stockholm encounter is in the cards. But we're not naive, we don't think we can solve the world's problems.

Some reports have suggested that Japan is less optimistic than its allies in Seoul and Washington that the talks are a good idea, but U.S. officials said talks with both Kono and Kang at the State Department had gone well. "It is up to the parties to decide how to move forward", Wallstrom said Friday before meeting Ri.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho leaves the Swedish government building Rosenbad in Stockholm March 16, 2018.

"They met this morning and discussed the same issues that are being discussed during this trip, such as the security situation", he said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports that Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri is accompanied by Choe Kang II - deputy director general of the North American bureau of North Korea's foreign ministry - while transferring in China ahead of his flight to Stockholm.

Löfven's comments came only a few days after he met President Trump at the White House and offered to be a "channel" in improving US-North Korea relations.

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

Worldwide media have speculated that Sweden could either help set up a summit or be a potential location if a tete-a-tete were to be confirmed.

"The Swedish foreign ministry has said talks "will focus on Sweden's consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia", but also will also address the security situation on the Korean Peninsula". Sweden is now a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

"The aim of the visit is to contribute to the effective implementation of the resolutions", the statement added, referring to The UN Security Council's denouncement of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The closest contact Pyongyang has had with a U.S. administration came in 2000, when then-President Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, visited the country to lay the groundwork for a mooted meeting between the countries' leaders.

Other possible summit locations include: Switzerland, the neutral nation where Kim went to school; the Joint Security Area in the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea; and China, which has diplomatic relations with the United States and North Korea and has hosted Kim's father, the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Trump accepted an invitation from Kim when a South Korean delegation delivered it verbally in Washington.