Saturday, July 21, 2018 | ePaper

N. Korea `in talks to free US detainees` as diplomacy escalates

  • Print


North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho leaves a Swedish goverment building in Stockholm

AFP :
North Korea is in talks with the US and Sweden to release three jailed Americans, reports said, as diplomatic activities intensified ahead of Pyongyang's planned summits with Washington and Seoul.
The release of the three Korean-Americans is under discussion through multiple channels more than a week after President Donald Trump agreed to meet the North's Kim Jong Un, the reports said.
Pyongyang has yet to confirm it even made the US summit offer-relayed by Seoul envoys who had met Kim in Pyongyang-but South Korea said he had "given his word" about his commitment to denuclearisation.
Trump's stunning announcement has triggered a race to set a credible agenda for what would be historic talks between the two leaders.
Seoul-based MBC TV station reported Sunday that Pyongyang and Washington had "practically reached" a final agreement on the release of US citizens Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong-chul.
"They are hammering out details over the timing of the release," it quoted a South Korean diplomatic source as saying.
The negotiation was held through the North's mission to the United Nations and the US State Department-an unofficial avenue of communication dubbed the "New York channel", the source said.
CNN said the prisoners' release was also discussed at three-day talks in Stockholm between the North's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom that ended Saturday. Sweden represents Washington's interests in the North. It raised the issue of American detainees to "move things in the right direction", CNN quoted one source as saying.
Kim Dong-chul, a South Korea-born American pastor, has been detained by the North since 2015 when he was arrested for spying. He was sentenced to 10 years' hard labour in 2016.
Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk-or Tony Kim-were both working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, founded by evangelical Christians from overseas, when they were detained last year on suspicion of "hostile acts".
Reports of their possible release come amid a flurry of diplomatic activities involving Pyongyang and Washington along with Seoul and other US allies.
During a visit to Pyongyang by Seoul's envoys earlier this month, Kim reportedly offered to meet Trump, with the US president subsequently agreeing to talks by May. No specific time or venue has been set.
Kim also agreed to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month-the third ever between the two Koreas-according to the envoys. And he reportedly offered to consider abandoning his nuclear weapons in exchange for US security guarantees.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said in an interview aired Sunday that Kim was "taking stock" after Trump's surprise decision to accept the invitation, but that a channel of communication had been established.
She said Kim had "given his word" on his commitment to denuclearisation.
"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," Kang told CBS's "Face the Nation".
Nothing has been offered to the North Koreans to engage in negotiations, she said.
The Stockholm talks overlapped with another meeting between the national security advisers of the US, South Korea and Japan.
US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, the South's Chung Eui-yong and Japan's Shotaro Yachi met in San Francisco over the weekend and vowed "close policy coordination" for the weeks ahead, Seoul's presidential office said.
They agreed that peace on the Korean peninsula hinges on the success of the two planned summits, vowing "not to repeat the failure of the past", it said in an apparent reference to previous botched nuclear disarmament negotiations with the North.
Also on Sunday a senior North Korean diplomat arrived in Finland for talks on peninsula issues with former officials and academics from the US and South Korea.
The sudden rapprochement comes months after the North staged its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
Kim and Trump traded colourful threats of war and personal insults, which heightened global concerns of another conflict on the peninsula once reduced to ruin by the 1950-53 Korean War.

More News For this Category

Parliament debates no-confidence motion against Modi`s govt

Parliament debates no-confidence motion against Modi`s govt

AP, New Delhi :Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of failing to live up to its promises as the Indian Parliament on Friday debated a no-confidence motion

Germany moves to formally close Puigdemont extradition case

Germany moves to formally close Puigdemont extradition case

AP, Berlin  :German prosecutors say they've received official notification that Spain has withdrawn the European arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, bringing extradition proceedings against the separatist

Park given 8 more years in prison

Park given 8 more years in prison

AFP, Seoul :Disgraced South Korean president Park Geun-hye was convicted of charges including illegally receiving funds from the country's spy agency on Friday and given eight more years in

News In Brief

Peru's SC President resigns AFP, LimaPeru's Supreme Court chief justice resigned Thursday after the publication of a series of audio recordings sparked a growing scandal over the sale of

May survives rebel MPs but EU's Brexit judgment looms

May survives rebel MPs but EU's Brexit judgment looms

AFP, London :Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a frenzied fortnight of rebellion that threatened to unseat her, but must now sell her Brexit plan to voters and the

Trump judicial pick withdraws at last minute

Trump judicial pick withdraws at last minute

CNN, Washington :Moments before a Senate vote on his confirmation to the US Circuit Court, one of Donald Trump's nominees reportedly had his candidacy withdrawn by the White House

UK police identify Novichok suspects as Russians

AFP :British police believe that they have identified the suspects who carried out the Novichok nerve agent attack on a former Moscow double agent and his daughter and that

Turkey ends 2-year state of emergency, seeks to keep some powers

AFP :Turkey's state of emergency which was imposed after the failed 2016 coup came to an end on Thursday, but the opposition fears it will be replaced by even

Macron security official filmed hitting protester

AFP :One of President Emmanuel Macron's top security officers was at the centre of a potentially damaging scandal for the French leader on Thursday after being filmed hitting a

19 drown, dozens missing as migrant boat sinks off Cyprus

AFP  :At least 19 migrants drowned and up to 30 were missing Wednesday after their boat sank in the Mediterranean off the north of Cyprus, local security forces said.The