Published: Sun, March 18, 2018

N.Korean foreign minister leaves for Sweden

N.Korean foreign minister leaves for Sweden

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 Ri's visit fuelled speculation that a Stockholm encounter was in the cards.

But North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho went to Stockholm this week and met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on Friday after meeting with his counterpart Margot Wallstrom on Thursday.

The US and South Korea today pledged continued, close coordination to maintain maximum pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme and said the country can could enjoy a "brighter future" if it chooses the correct path.

"We are hoping that if we can use our role and also our contacts, then we will put them to the best use", Wallstrom told reporters.

Meanwhile, Japanese broadcaster TBS said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed North Korea in a telephone call on Friday.

Sweden has diplomatic ties with North Korea.

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.

The release of Otto Warmbier, the USA student who was imprisoned in North Korea, was mediated by Swedish diplomats, for example.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry said on Friday night that Ri and Wallstrom planned to meet again Saturday and a summary of their discussions would be provided afterward.

If the summit actually takes place, it will be the first time that any concurrent sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States have met.

However, as USA diplomats worked to set up the presidential visit, it became clear that North Korea and the United States were too far apart on the details of a missile pact to justify handing then-leader Kim Jong Il the huge concession of a Clinton visit.

The Swedish foreign ministry said ahead of his visit that talks would focus on "Sweden's consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia" but also would address the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

On March 5-6, South Korea's high-ranking delegation visited North Korea, where it held a meeting with the country's leader Kim Jong-un.

An official at the South's defence ministry said authorities were aware of the Jane's report, which follows a similar one released on the 38 North website earlier this month that said a nearby reactor had also continued to show signs of operation.

Kang will also meet with Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to her father President Donald Trump during the trip.

A report on Friday by intelligence analysts at Jane's by IHS Markit said satellite imagery from February 25 showed gas emissions from a stack at the North's experimental light water reactor (ELWR), suggesting preliminary testing had likely begun.

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