North Korean diplomats discuss denuclearization in Stockholm

By Jennie Oh  |  Updated March 18, 2018 at 12:44 PM
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SEOUL, March 18 (UPI) -- North Korean diplomats met Swedish officials in Stockholm to discuss denuclearization and security on the Korean peninsula, ahead of the North's upcoming summit with the United States, South Korean media reported Sunday.

After he was spotted passing through Beijing International Airport earlier in the week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho met his Swedish counterpart Margot Elisabeth Wallstrom on Thursday.

The meeting, initially set for two days, was extended to three days of talks.

Sweden's foreign ministry said in an online statement Saturday that discussions had mainly focused on the security on the Korean peninsula.

The two officials also shared views on various opportunities for diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve conflict, as well as discussing bilateral relations.

According to the ministry, Sweden underlined the need for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that Ri met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and held talks with Wallstrom.

Both sides did not mention North Korea's upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States in their reports, but are largely expected to have discussed the landmark events as well as the issue of freeing American citizens detained in the North.

"Talks concerned Sweden's consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia," the Swedish Foreign Ministry said.

As Ri made his way to Stockholm earlier this week, there was speculation that the diplomat may engage with U.S. officials there.

The Swedish capital, where a North Korean embassy has stood since the 1970s, is regarded a contact point between Washington and Pyongyang.

It is one of the cities that may host the May summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders, Yonhap reported, especially with Lofven having offered to act as a mediator between the reclusive state and the international community.

On Monday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is expected to meet with her Swedish counterpart who will likely brief her on the recent meeting with the North Korean diplomat.

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