Sweden’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.
Briefing reporters between meetings with her North Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said that 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.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho had originally been scheduled to hold two days of talks with Wallstrom in Stockholm. Wallstrom spokesman Pezhman Fivrin said Friday that the talks had been extended by a day, without elaborating.
Ri’s arrival in the Swedish capital is the first significant diplomatic move by Pyongyang since President Donald Trump said a week ago he would be willing to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
“We believe in dialogue and the political process, but we are not naïve,” Wallstrom said. “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.”
Earlier Friday, Ri also met Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, the latter’s press secretary, Erik Nises, told CNN.
“They met this morning and discussed the same issues that are being discussed during this trip, such as the security situation,” he said.
History in the making
The historically neutral European country, whose embassy represents US interests in the North Korean capital, has often played the role of intermediary in discussions between Washington and Pyongyang.
Should the leaders of the two nations sit down, it would be the first time that a sitting US President has met with the leader of the reclusive Asian nation.
Earlier, Lofven had said that Stockholm is willing to host the historic summit.
“We really want to help out,” Lofven said in an interview with Sweden’s TV4 network.
“If we can help and provide a forum for this and support this process, then this is something we should do.”
Sweden is one of a handful of places analysts believe could host the meeting, along with Switzerland, the neutral nation where Kim went to school; the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone that divides North and South Korea; and China, which has diplomatic relations with the United States and North Korea and has hosted Kim’s father, the late Kim Jong Il.
The discussions between Ri and Wallstrom are to “focus on Sweden’s consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia,” the Swedish government said when the visit was announced.
The first meeting, held Thursday, was brief, but both sides were to have “plenty of time to discuss the matters at hand” Friday, said Pezhman Fivrin, a spokesman for Wallstrom.
North Korea has yet to make official comment on a proposed face-to-face meeting. Trump accepted an invitation from Kim when a South Korean delegation delivered it verbally in Washington.
But diplomatic sources have signaled enough confidence in South Korea’s words and actions that most of the parties are pressing ahead.
The idea that Trump and Kim would sit down together was unthinkable just months ago when North Korea was regularly testing weapons in its pursuit of developing a missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States.
The diplomatic wheels started turning rapidly at the beginning of the year when the two Koreas worked to bring a handful of athletes from the North to compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Since the end of the Games last month, Kim has hosted a high-level delegation from Seoul, which delivered the summit offer to Trump.
Journalist Per Nyberg contributed to this report.