North Korean foreign minister heads to Sweden


Beijing (AFP)

North Korea's foreign minister flew into Beijing on Thursday, en route to Sweden which represents US interests in Pyongyang and could play a role in setting up a proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

China's foreign ministry confirmed reports that Ri Yong Ho was transiting through the Chinese capital on his way to the Scandinavian country.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing that he did not have any further information.

Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, citing diplomatic sources, had reported on Friday that Ri was expected to meet his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom "in the near future".

Ri was accompanied by Choe Kang Il, deputy director general of the North American bureau of the foreign ministry, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

"We can't rule out the possibility of a contact between the North and the US" during Ri's trip to Sweden, a Beijing source was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

Yonhap said he had been booked on a flight from Beijing to Stockholm departing at 14:20 pm (0620 GMT).

Trump and Kim have agreed to hold a historic meeting but the date and location have yet to be worked out. Seoul says they agreed to meet by the end of May.

Sweden's embassy in Pyongyang represents US, Canadian and Australian diplomatic interests in North Korea and plays a key role in liaising diplomatic talks.

Trump thanked Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven for Stockholm's efforts to negotiate the release of US student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested for stealing propaganda material during a 2016 trip to Pyongyang and later died when he returned to his country.