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Published: Mon, March 19, 2018
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

S.Korea official says too early to prepare inter-Korean…

S.Korea official says too early to prepare inter-Korean…

A North Korean diplomat will hold unofficial talks with South Korea and the United States this week in Finland, ahead of Pyongyang's upcoming summits with both countries.

North Korea continues to be at the forefront of any discussion on foreign policy, with no shortage of ideas on how to handle the situation in the best way possible.

Kimmo Lahdevirta, head of the Asia desk at the Finnish foreign ministry, told STT that the meeting will be "academic" and "from the perspective of worldwide relations". The ministry suggested the U.S. would also be represented in some way, without giving details.

But it was not clear if the fate of United States citizens who are held captive in North Korea was part of the discussions.

North Korea said its delegation will feature Hyon Song-wol, the leader of the all-female Moranbong Band who earlier led a North Korean team of performers across the border during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

However, a top North Korean official was spotted apparently boarding a plane to Finland on Sunday.

On Sunday, Choe Kang Il, deputy director for North American affairs at Pyongyang's foreign ministry, was seen at Beijing airport Sunday departing for Finland, where he is expected to hold talks with former U.S. ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens, multiple media reports said.

The Ministry has not divulged the agenda or participants of the meeting, but says that the talks are not of a top-level political nature and that Finland is working only as an "academic" and "routine" facilitator for the meet.

Neither Sarias nor Lahdevirta specified that the talks were about denuclearization.

Senior South Korean officials who traveled to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang this month and met with Kim say he is willing to discuss the North's nuclear weapons program. North Korea has so far not publicly acknowledged the invitation. The talks could help prepare the way for a planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks. "But the significance of his word is - is quite - quite weighty in the sense that it is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself". Tensions between North Korea and the West, notably the United States, have lowered in recent weeks, but the two sides traded a series of threats and insults late past year via social media.

Sweden's foreign minister concluded three days of talks Saturday with her North Korean counterpart, saying they discussed the "opportunities and challenges for continued diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful solution" to the Koreas' security dispute.

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations tell CNN that Sweden is helping negotiate the release of the Americans held captive in North Korea.

The North is now holding three Americans - Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song. He is serving a ten-year sentence for espionage.

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