No news on Trump-Kim summit as North Korea wraps up Sweden talks

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom talks to journalists, on March 16, 2018 in the Swedish house of parliment in Stockholm, to comment her meeting with the North Korean Foreign Minister the day before. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho had arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport on March 16, 2018 before being whisked away in a diplomatic motorcade. (AFP/TT News Agency/Soren Andersson)
Updated 18 March 2018
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No news on Trump-Kim summit as North Korea wraps up Sweden talks

STOCKHOLM: North Korean officials wrapped up three days of talks with Swedish counterparts with no indication their efforts cleared the way for a mooted nuclear summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, as a senior Pyongyang diplomat headed to Finland Sunday for further meetings.
The North’s state KCNA news agency said Sunday the Stockholm talks had discussed “bilateral relations and other issues of mutual concern,” without providing further detail.
The meetings in Sweden came a week after Trump agreed to a summit proposal relayed by South Korean envoys who met Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.
His response triggered a race to set a credible agenda for what would be historic talks between the two leaders.
But no specific time or venue has been set and North Korea has yet to confirm it even made the offer to meet.
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 US ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens, multiple media reports said.
Earlier reports had listed Choe among the North’s delegation to Sweden.
Choe, experienced in negotiations with the US, is expected to meet the retired US diplomat as well as other retired South Korean diplomats, the South’s Yonhap news agency said, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.
“But no current US or South Korean officials will be there,” Yonhap quoted the source in Seoul as saying.
In Stockholm, the Swedes were seeking to pave the way for talks which could end a threat of nuclear war, using the leverage of their longstanding ties with Pyongyang, where its diplomatic mission opened in 1975, the first Western embassy to be established in the hermit country.
The embassy today represents US, Canadian and Australian diplomatic interests, giving Sweden a key liaison role and facilitating the talks in Stockholm between Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom and counterpart Ri Yong Ho.
Ri also met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who Friday said Sweden hoped to be a summit “facilitator.”
A senior US administration official told AFP Friday no US government staff would be meeting with the North Koreans in Sweden, where Ri was stationed as a diplomat for three years in the mid 1980s.
Wallstrom had earlier said the talks extended into Saturday given the “constructive atmosphere” of the first two days.
No concrete announcements emerged Saturday, as the Swedish foreign ministry stated that “the talks focused primarily on the security situation on the Korean peninsula, which is high on the UN Security Council agenda.”
Noting Sweden’s “consular responsibilities as a protecting power” for the United States, Canada and Australia, the statement indicated the “foreign ministers discussed opportunities and challenges associated with continued diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.”
The ministry added that “Sweden underlined the need for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs in accordance with Security Council resolutions.”
It also stated that “other discussions centered on the humanitarian situation in North Korea, sanctions, and regional cooperation and security issues for countries including South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States.”
In line with previous sessions of talks, Ri made no comments to the media.
The Swedes added Ri also visited the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute global security think tank for “off the record” talks with chairman Jan Eliasson and other senior officials on the situation in the Korean peninsula.


NATO, EU, US hail Macedonia vote as key step on Western path

Updated 20 October 2018
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NATO, EU, US hail Macedonia vote as key step on Western path

BRUSSELS: NATO, the European Union and the US on Saturday hailed a Macedonian parliament vote as another step toward ending a decades-long name row with Greece that takes the small country closer to joining their Western clubs.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the close vote late Friday to start the process of renaming the country North Macedonia — a move that EU and NATO member Greece also hailed.
“It’s up to the government & political leaders to complete national procedures on the name agreement & seize this historic opportunity to bring the country into #NATO,” Stoltenberg tweeted after the vote.
“We now expect the national procedures for the implementation of the agreement to continue without any delays, toward the adoption of the constitutional changes,” Mogherini and fellow EU official Johannes Hahn said in a statement.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert welcomed the decision by Macedonia’s parliament “to initiate the constitutional changes needed to implement” the agreement with Greece.
She called it an “historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region.”
Amendments will now be drafted in the capital Skopje to incorporate the new name into the constitution, after which another parliamentary vote will be required to enshrine the changes.
Under the accord, which Prime Minister Zoran Zaev struck with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in June, the Balkan state would rename itself North Macedonia. In exchange, Athens has promised to stop blocking its entry into NATO and the EU.
Greece has stood in Macedonia’s way for 27 years in protest at the country’s name, which it argues is an encroachment on its own province called Macedonia.
Mogherini and Hahn, the European commissioner who oversees talks to bring new members into the 28-nation bloc, said the vote underscored the determination and courage of both sides to resolve their long dispute.
“This is a truly unique opportunity for decisively moving the country forward on its European Union path as well as for reconciliation in the region,” Mogherini and Hahn said.
“The European Union will continue to fully support and accompany the country, all its citizens and its institutions.”