South Korea aims for high-level talks with North Korea

Kim Jong-un

North Korean minister in Sweden amid Trump-Kim meeting speculation

Im added it would be necessary for South Korea and the U.S. to hold a summit after President Moon Jae-in's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un - a measure that Im said would help both Washington and Pyongyang narrow gaps before the planned summit to be held by May.

"We are hoping that if we can use our role and also our contacts there, we will put it to the best use, and then it's for the parties to decide". Its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, which opened in 1975, was the first Western embassy established in the country.

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

"These talks were set up on a separate channel from either the U.S. -DPRK channels or the ROK-DPRK channels - it is wrong to assume that they are preparations for any summit", a North Korea expert with diplomatic experience told NK News. The North Korean minister is expected to meet with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom.

Ri made no comment as he left.

Ri's delegation included Choe Kang-il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's North America section.

North Korea has been uncharacteristically silent on the meeting.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported, without citing sources, that Ri planned to stay in Sweden until Sunday.

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Vice President Mike Pence had been scheduled for a secret meeting with Kim's sister at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, a face-to-face that Pence's office said was scuttled by the North Koreans.

Trump and Moon "agreed that concrete actions, not words, will be the key to achieving permanent denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and President Trump reiterated his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by the end of May", the White House said.

Ivanka Trump sat down Thursday with South Korea's foreign minister for a meeting whose goal remains a mystery.

The push for the two summits came after the North Korean leader said in a New Year's address that he wanted to improve relations with the South following a year of heightened tension.

Speaking in Berlin on Friday, Lofven said that if Sweden "can serve as a facilitator to bring about results, then we will of course do that".

Kang told PBS NewsHour she was "cautiously optimistic" denuclearization talks would happen between the United States and North Korea and that these would lead to "a breakthrough for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue".

In a phone call with Moon on Friday, 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.

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