STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

North Korean foreign minister arrives in Sweden amid summit speculation

North Korea's foreign minister is visiting Sweden, the first significant diplomatic move by Pyongyang since US Presid...

Posted: Mar 16, 2018 12:41 AM

North Korea's foreign minister is visiting Sweden, the first significant diplomatic move by Pyongyang since US President Donald Trump said a week ago that he'd be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Ri was seen by a CNN crew arriving at the Swedish Foreign Ministry Thursday evening.

Sweden, whose embassy represents US interests in the North Korean capital, has been touted as a possible venue for the momentous summit between Kim and Trump, and the visit will fuel speculation that a Stockholm encounter is in the cards.

Talks between Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom and her North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, will "focus on Sweden's consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia," the Swedish government said, announcing the two-day visit.

The security situation on the Korean Peninsula is also on the agenda.

North Korea has made no official comment on the proposed face-to-face meeting since Trump accepted Kim's invitation, which was delivered verbally by a South Korean delegation. But diplomatic sources have signaled enough confidence in South Korea's words and actions that most of the parties are pressing ahead.

As North Korea's top diplomat, Ri is one of the most visible faces of a country shrouded in secrecy.

He made headlines last year by telling reporters that Kim could order a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean in response to insults from Trump. He also said Trump was "mentally deranged" and likened his threats to "a dog barking."

The trip to Sweden comes as Nirj Deva, the chair of a European parliamentary delegation, told reporters that his group has been holding secret meetings with senior members of the North Korean regime over the past three years to try to convince it to return to peace talks.

Former top US negotiator says Kim is 'in the driver's seat'

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."

"We met in secret with senior North Koreans on 14 occasions," Deva said. "We understood their concerns and they understood ours."

Why Sweden?

Sweden is one of a handful of places analysts believe could host the meeting, as its Pyongyang embassy is often used as an intermediary for communication between the regime and countries with which it has no diplomatic ties.

The release of Otto Warmbier, the US student who was imprisoned in North Korea, was mediated by Swedish diplomats, for example.

Sweden was one of the first non-communist countries to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1973. It posted diplomats there shortly thereafter, said Jim Hoare, Britain's former charge d'affaires in Pyongyang.

Tillerson's dismissal rattles foreign nerves ahead of North Korea summit

"The Swedes have this long-established presence in North Korea, so since the 1990s, they've particularly looked after US interests," Hoare told CNN. "There is a long record of Sweden interacting with North Korea on behalf of the Americans. There is this tradition, this link."

However, Hoare said he wasn't sure Kim would travel to a European country, where there might be attempts to arrest him.

Other options

Other possible summit locations include: 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 North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

"But the North Korean relationship with China is not very good at the moment," Hoare said.

"If they hadn't fallen out with the Malaysians, one might have thought that could have been a place," he added, referring to a diplomatic rift between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang over the suspected assassination of Kim's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, by North Korean agents.

US starts to prep for North Korea summit even as Pyongyang remains silent

Regardless of where the summit happens, if it happens, Trump would become the first sitting US President to meet with a North Korean leader.

Deva, the European Parliament member, hailed Trump's decision to accept an invitation from Kim as "an unprecedented display of diplomacy."

He said that the talks between Trump and Kim would only be successful if there are no preconditions.

"To me, the case is simple," he told journalists. "What we are witnessing on the Peninsula is a remnant of the Cold War in which a clash between the opposing ideologies of communism and capitalism continue to this day. This is Cold War Mark II."

Out of the blue

The reclusive regime had made overtures to US leaders in the past, but none took up the offer.

The closest contact Pyongyang has had with a US administration came in 2000, when then-President Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, visited the country to lay the groundwork for a mooted meeting between the countries' leaders.

However, as US diplomats worked to set up the presidential visit, it became clear that North Korea and the US were too far apart on the details of a missile pact to justify handing then-leader Kim Jong Il the huge concession of a Clinton visit.

The idea that Trump and Kim Jong Un 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, Kim has hosted a high-level delegation from Seoul, which delivered the summit offer to Trump.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in credited Trump's "maximum pressure" approach, including wide-ranging sanctions on North Korea, for the diplomatic thaw.

Trump raised serious doubts about whether diplomacy with Pyongyang could work as recently as October, when he publicly said his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate Kim.

The White House said this week that it would replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is considered more hawkish on North Korea than his predecessor. The US Senate must confirm Pompeo as top US diplomat.

A source close to the Trump administration told CNN that the reason Trump has put Pompeo at the State Department was because he "wanted a strong team ready for North Korea."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 662750

Reported Deaths: 12623
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion907691647
Lake48461880
Allen35897638
Hamilton32121398
St. Joseph30032513
Elkhart25403417
Vanderburgh21261379
Tippecanoe20050203
Johnson16362360
Porter15987270
Hendricks15835300
Clark11976181
Madison11756319
Vigo11625230
Monroe10343163
Delaware9842179
LaPorte9778197
Howard9059198
Kosciusko8567111
Bartholomew7464147
Warrick7422151
Hancock7409132
Floyd7217170
Wayne6640192
Grant6432157
Boone610088
Morgan6096125
Dubois5916111
Dearborn548368
Cass545099
Marshall5427104
Henry542593
Noble509778
Jackson465067
Shelby460790
Lawrence4186113
Gibson401381
Harrison400464
Clinton396153
Montgomery387283
DeKalb385878
Miami357563
Knox357485
Whitley349537
Huntington345777
Steuben338855
Wabash331876
Putnam330559
Ripley327162
Adams323549
Jasper316643
White297352
Jefferson295074
Daviess285496
Fayette271956
Decatur270988
Greene261580
Posey261231
Wells258375
Scott250850
Clay241644
LaGrange240970
Randolph225476
Spencer218030
Jennings215344
Washington211627
Sullivan203339
Fountain201642
Starke188251
Owen182353
Fulton179037
Jay177928
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush165122
Vermillion160842
Franklin159435
Tipton146741
Parke139316
Pike127832
Blackford120627
Pulaski106644
Newton96532
Brown95139
Benton92213
Crawford90713
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7548
Union67210
Ohio53711
Unassigned0431

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 968874

Reported Deaths: 17346
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1119871212
Cuyahoga957051750
Hamilton73287974
Montgomery47254892
Summit40184957
Butler35456473
Lucas35279767
Stark29356843
Warren22381276
Lorain21994391
Mahoning19444544
Lake18379305
Clermont18346212
Delaware16437136
Licking14967200
Fairfield14506160
Trumbull14315465
Greene13568214
Medina13370219
Clark12246336
Wood11506194
Portage11008160
Allen10768235
Richland10278206
Miami10011190
Muskingum8169131
Columbiana8120183
Pickaway8041104
Tuscarawas8029236
Marion7982137
Wayne7857219
Erie6872184
Ross6130137
Geauga6057129
Hancock5981114
Ashtabula5959147
Scioto5933104
Lawrence524974
Union512352
Darke5026124
Belmont491889
Huron4797118
Jefferson4790108
Sandusky476196
Seneca4671103
Athens463733
Washington462287
Mercer4582101
Auglaize455499
Shelby440970
Knox401686
Putnam3986101
Madison392147
Ashland379195
Fulton378664
Defiance3714102
Brown369242
Crawford357496
Logan354060
Preble352671
Clinton340064
Highland327756
Ottawa323267
Williams301878
Jackson289356
Champaign286646
Guernsey286234
Fayette268144
Perry267744
Morrow259225
Henry245765
Hardin244457
Holmes2430104
Coshocton235547
Van Wert229249
Gallia221846
Adams216032
Pike215228
Wyandot209353
Hocking194049
Carroll180828
Paulding160023
Meigs135037
Noble128742
Monroe116436
Morgan100834
Harrison100433
Vinton76715
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 34°
Angola
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 30°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 34°
Fort Wayne
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 34°
Lima
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 37°
Sunny, Cooler Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events