North Korea, US representatives to meet in Finland

Representatives of North Korea, South Korea and the United States are set to meet in Finland for talks on denucleariz...

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 5:22 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2018 5:22 AM

Representatives of North Korea, South Korea and the United States are set to meet in Finland for talks on denuclearization, according to South Korean and Finnish officials.

The North Korea talks in Finland will include American representatives who are not government officials, said Kimmo Lahdevirta, an official at the Finland foreign ministry. The US does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry told CNN that former officials and private experts from South Korea would be at the "second-tier" talks on denuclearization. The ministry suggested the US would also be represented in some way, without giving details.

Lahdevirta described the meeting as a "track 1.5 academic meeting ... involving representatives from North Korea, South Korea and the US."

So-called "track 1.5 talks" bring together a mixture of current government officials and nongovernmental experts.

Lahdevirta said no current US government officials will be participating. He could not say who was coming from North or South Korea.

Denuclearization topic?

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

Choe Kang Il, the deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry, brushed off questions from reporters at Beijing Capital International Airport, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Finland's Foreign Ministry told CNN the country was only facilitating the meeting -- not participating.

Ministry spokeswoman Petra Sarias declined to confirm the meeting's date, time, location or participants.

Neither Sarias nor Lahdevirta specified that the talks were about denuclearization. Neither one would say if there would be any public statement after the meeting from any of the participants.

Trump and Kim Jong Un

The White House announced earlier this month that Trump had accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet.

North Korea has yet to make an official comment on the proposed meeting. Trump accepted the invitation from Kim when a South Korean delegation delivered it verbally in Washington.

Should the leaders of the two nations sit down, it would be the first time a sitting US President has met with the leader of the reclusive Asian nation.

Sweden says it's ready

Separately, Sweden is meeting with North Korean officials about three Americans held captive by the Asian nation.

The country's top diplomat said Friday that her country stands ready to assist the United States and North Korea in moving forward a historic dialogue between the two nations. Sweden is playing the role of a "protecting power" for the US since it doesn't have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Briefing reporters between meetings with her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the "security situation (on) the Korean Peninsula is of interest to the whole world" and that the Swedish government "values this opportunity to arrange a meeting" between the traditional foes.

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations tell CNN that Sweden is helping negotiate the release of the Americans held captive in North Korea. American citizens Kim Sang Duk, Kim Hak-Song, and Kim Dong Chul are still being held by North Korean government.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk -- also known as Tony Kim -- were detained in 2017 on suspicion of "hostile acts." Kim Dong Chul was arrested in 2015 and has been serving 10 years on espionage charges.

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