North Korean minister's surprise Sweden visit fuels speculation over Trump talks

North Korean foreign minister heads to Sweden amid summit speculation

Last week, US President Donald Trump accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to a summit and proposed to hold talks before the end of May.

North Korea's top diplomat met with his Swedish counterpart in a surprise visit to Stockholm.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Friday said it will seek another round of high-level talks with North Korea this month in preparation for a full-scale summit, the presidential chief of staff said.

The abrupt decision to accept the summit has triggered much skepticism from Korea observers but, after his call with Moon, Trump's White House remained cautiously optimistic that his strategy of making military threats backed by crippling real-world sanctions had forced Kim's hand.

The rare visit could be a first step toward a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In its statement, Sweden's foreign ministry noted that the UN Security Council had unanimously condemned North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs and demanded the "complete, verifiable and irrevocable elimination of these programs".

Sweden is happy to help with problems on the Korean peninsula but it is up to the parties involved to try to find a way forward, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstom said on Friday. "There is a long record of Sweden interacting with North Korea on behalf of the Americans".

"We can't rule out the possibility of a contact between the North and the US" during Ri's trip to Sweden, Yonhap quotes a Beijing source as saying.

"It was a good and constructive atmosphere". No date or location for the talks has been announced, although they are expected to occur in late May.

Speaking Wednesday at a news conference in Strasbourg, the British-based member of the European Parliament said he and his colleagues have been "relentlessly advocating the case for dialogue without preconditions - preconditions which I knew would abort any successful talks even before they started". Ri's delegation included Choe Kang Il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's North America section.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry says Ri Yong Ho will meet his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom during his rare trip overseas Thursday.

Global media have speculated that Sweden could either help set up a summit or be a potential location if a tete-a-tete were to be confirmed.

North Korea has yet to publicly comment on what it hopes to gain from the talks, leading some to view the offer for talks with skepticism.

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

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