Correction on 03/19: A previous version of this article stated the talks would take place on April 19, when in fact they will take place this week. The article has been amended to reflect this fact.
North Korea, the U.S., and South Korea will hold track 1.5 meetings in Finland this week to discuss the conditions for denuclearization, two sources independently confirmed to NK News this week.
A report on Friday from South Korea’s TV Chosun added that one of the participants in the current talks in Sweden will travel to Finland after they wrap up their discussions in Stockholm.
The South Korean news outlet said that Choe Kang Il, the DPRK’s Vice Minister of North Korea – U.S. relations will travel to Finland on Sunday.
The DPRK contingent is expected to meet with the former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens, government officials from South Korea and several academics.
While the meeting is unlikely to be conducted in an official capacity, it may also represent the first face-to-face discussions between the U.S. and North Korea since Washington announced last week that it was willing to hold a summit with North Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump made the surprise announcement that he would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on March 8. But on Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there were no updates on how the proposed summit was progressing.
Also on Friday, Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke over the phone and expressed “cautious optimism” about the current direction of the Korean Peninsula.
Moon also told his U.S. counterpart that he would not deviate or make concessions on North Korea’s denuclearization in Seoul’s upcoming summit with its northern neighbor.
Despite the positive developments, Washington remains committed to maintaining sanctions on the DPRK via its “maximum pressure” campaign and has said there will be no sanctions relief until North Korea demonstrates it’s serious about giving up its nuclear weapons.
Senior U.S. figures also remain skeptical of North Korea’s willingness to denuclearize. Speaking at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, the head of Pacific Command Harry Harris said he hoped the negotiations would go well but warned that the U.S. “can’t be overly optimistic on the outcome.”
Additional reporting by Chad O’Carroll