Sweden ‘prepared to facilitate’ Donald Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un
The arrival of North Korea’s foreign minister in the Scandinavian country could be a precursor to the summit.
North Korea’s foreign minister has arrived in Sweden for talks with his Swedish counterpart.
The surprise trip could be a step toward a meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho landed at Stockholm Arlanda Airport on a direct flight from Beijing.
If the key actors want Sweden to play a role, facilitate (talks), be a forum or a link or whatever it may be, then we are prepared to do that Swedish PM Stefan Lofven
Mr Ri will meet Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom at an undisclosed location on Thursday or Friday, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said.
Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973 and is one of the few Western countries with an embassy in Pyongyang.
It provides consular services for the United States in North Korea.
“If the key actors want Sweden to play a role, facilitate (talks), be a forum or a link or whatever it may be, then we are prepared to do that,” prime minister Stefan Lofven told Sweden’s TT news agency earlier Thursday.
“We shouldn’t be naive and believe it is Sweden that solves these problems,” Mr Lofven added.
The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 10, 2018
Sweden’s foreign ministry said the talks between Ms Wallstrom and Mr Ri “will focus on Sweden’s consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia”, but also will address the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The ministry referred to the UN security council’s condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, saying the UN “emphasised the need for intensified diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict”.
The Swedish ministry said a statement summarising the talks will be made available on Friday.
Mr Ri, a former diplomat in Stockholm and London and an ex-nuclear envoy with broad experience in negotiating with rivals South Korea and the United States, was chosen as Pyongyang’s foreign minister in 2016.
In a letter to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres last month, he urged the United Nations not to remain silent about what he called “the US dangerous game of aggravating (the) situation in and around the Korean peninsula and driving the whole world into a possible disaster of nuclear war”.
The trip by Mr Ri is being closely watched because there remains a huge amount of preparation that needs to be done and relatively little time before Mr Kim is supposedly planning to sit down for summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has agreed to meet Mr Kim by May.
So far, North Korea has yet to publicly comment on what it hopes to gain from the summits, adding an extra element of mystery and scepticism.
Sweden has been rumoured as a possible site for the summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump, though a truce village on the South Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone between the Koreas is seen as more likely.
Senior South Korean officials who travelled to Pyongyang earlier this month and met with Mr Kim say he is willing to discuss the North’s nuclear weapons programme.