North Korea's foreign minister to visit Sweden today


North Korea's foreign minister was flying to Sweden on Thursday, the Swedish government said, in the first significant diplomatic move by Pyongyang since US President Donald Trump said a week ago that he'd be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho is heading to Sweden for a two-day visit, the Swedish government said on Thursday.

Kono asked Vice-President Mike Pence to ensure that the decades-old issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea would be raised - along with the nuclear and missile issue - in any summit between Trump and Kim, Kyodo news agency reported. "We'll see what happens next", Wallstrom told reporters after the talks concluded. -North Korea interactions, but stressed it was up to the countries concerned to decide "which way we are going".

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.

Senior South Korean officials met Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang this month and told Washington the North Korean leader was open to giving up his nuclear weapons if North Korea's security was guaranteed.

Ri's talks with Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom are expected to resume on Friday.

According to a press release issued prior to Ri's arrival in Sweden, Ri and Wallstrom's discussions would focus on "Sweden's consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia".

Ri also held a brief meeting Friday with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

"If we can help and provide a forum for this and support this process, then this is something we should do".

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Trump has agreed to meet Kim by May.

So far, North Korea has yet to comment publicly on what it hopes to gain from the talks.

"If they hadn't fallen out with the Malaysians, one might have thought that could have been a place", he added, referring to a diplomatic rift between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang over the suspected assassination of Kim's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, by North Korean agents. Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations, with Sweden's Embassy in Pyongyang acting as a go-between for the two countries.

In a phone call with South Korean President Moon on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed a wish for talks with North Korea following Pyongyang's planned summits with South Korea and the United States, South Korea's presidential spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom said.

The trip by Ri is being closely watched because a huge amount of preparation needs to be done before the summit.

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.

That could suggest a potential breakthrough, or a fallback to the North's longstanding position that it's willing to get rid of its nuclear weapons if the US guarantees its safety.

In the past, that has meant Washington would have to withdraw all of its troops from South Korea, a condition no US president has been willing to consider.