North Korean Diplomat Heads to Finland for US, S. Korea Talks

Senior North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il is seen at the airport in Beijing, China on March 18. (Kim Jin-bang/Yonhap via AP)
Senior North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il is seen at the airport in Beijing, China on March 18. (Kim Jin-bang/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea -- A senior North Korean diplomat handling North American affairs was heading to Finland on Sunday for talks with the U.S. and South Korea.

Choe Kang Il's trip comes ahead of a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Choe was seen at a Beijing airport on Sunday before boarding a flight to Finland. The report cited unnamed "diplomatic sources" in Seoul as saying Choe would take part in a meeting with former U.S. diplomats, including former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens, and South Korean security experts.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the gathering would be similar to the so-called "Track 2" dialogue that has involved North Korean officials and former U.S. officials and experts. It gave no further details.

Choe was in the delegation North Korea sent to last month's Winter Olympics in South Korea.

On Saturday, Sweden's foreign minister concluded three days of talks in Stockholm 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.

Sweden has been rumored as a possible site for a U.S.-North Korea summit, although a truce village on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas is seen as more likely.

Trump has agreed to meet Kim by May. So far, North Korea has yet to comment publicly on what it hopes to gain from the talks.

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.

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