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Chad O'Carroll and Dagyum Ji
Chad O'Carroll and Dagyum Ji are NK News / NK Pro contributors.
Working-level talks between North Korea and the United States are likely to take place in Sweden this week, multiple sources indicated to NK News on Wednesday.
The location, which has not yet been publicly confirmed, is where the two countries held meetings in January this year.
NK News understands that the U.S. Department of State is involved in the talks, but multiple sources suggested that special representative Stephen Biegun would not be participating in the first meeting – even though he will be with the delegation for follow-up discussions.
It is currently unclear who the DPRK side will meet from the American side if Biegun does not take part in the initial meeting.
South Korean newspaper the Kyunghyang Shinmun reported Wednesday that Air China confirmed to it that North Korea’s chief negotiator to working-level talks Kim Myong Gil had reserved a seat on flight CA911 to Stockholm on October 3.
The Kyunghyang Shinmun continued that Kim only purchased a one-way ticket to Stockholm.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency also reported later that the chief negotiator’s name is on the passenger list, citing sources including an official at Beijing Capital International Airport.
Further underscoring the probable Swedish-location to talks, NK News understands that events to be hosted by the DPRK embassy in Stockholm this week were canceled at the eleventh hour due to pending “renovation work”.
The DPRK embassy in Stockholm would not confirm, however, if talks would take place in Sweden when called on Wednesday.
Speaking to NK News, an official there described South Korean media reports regarding the working-level talks as “unreliable”.
Meanwhile, the Swedish foreign ministry said it could not confirm if talks would be taking place in Sweden, adding that it would make a statement on any such talks after they had begun.
“We are aware of the reports in media but we have no information to give,” a press officer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told NK News.
While there’s a small possibility that the launch could scupper American interest in sitting with the DPRK just days later, stakeholders involved in the situation recognize the window of opportunity ahead is small.
This weekend would not be the first time that U.S. and North Korean officials sit down face-to-face in Sweden for working-level negotiations this year.
Before the Hanoi summit, tripartite talks between then DPRK vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui and ROK and U.S. counterparts Lee Do-hoon and Stephen Biegun were held in January at the Hackholmssund conference center, a secluded resort north of the Swedish capital.
Although Washington and Pyongyang on Tuesday confirmed the timeline of nuclear working-level negotiations, neither have confirmed a venue.
In a statement, DPRK first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui said both sides have agreed to begin working-level negotiations on Saturday after holding preliminary contact on Friday.
South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday said during an annual audit held at the National Assembly that there “must be a reason why both do not make an announcement” on the venue for the talks.
“They presumably have concerns that intensive media coverage activities may cause a setback in the preparation [for working-level negotiations].”
Colin Zwirko contributed reporting
Featured image: Pixabay