North Korea to meet informally with US, South Korea in Finland

A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek

North Korean officials are expected to meet with US and South Korean representatives in Helsinki, Finland, for unofficial talks ahead of possible major summit 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.

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.

More than a week has passed since United States president Donald Trump declared that he has accepted an offer to talk with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea.

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Trump reaffirmed on Friday that he was willing to meet Kim after South Korean officials passed on an invitation earlier this month. "We believe the North Korean leader is now taking stock".

His response triggered a race to set a credible agenda for what would be historic talks between the two leaders.

"We were all quite surprised by the readiness of that decision", South Korea's Kang Kyung-wha said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday.

The invitation was relayed to Trump at an impromptu White House meeting March 6 by South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who previously had met with Kim.

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The talks in Finland will add to a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of the proposed North Korean summits with South Korea and the United States, respectively, in April and May.

Trump accepted on the spot, catching his own top advisers off guard. The South Korean media outlet MBC is reporting that the US and North Korea have "practically sealed the deal on the release" of Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Dong Chul via diplomatic back channels, but CNN reports that Sweden is speaking with Pyongyang on America's behalf. "We have asked the North to indicate in clear terms the commitment to denuclearization, and he has in fact conveyed that commitment".

"But the significance of his word is quite, quite weighty in the sense that this is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself, and that has never been done before". "And once you see those actions, then you move forward further".

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