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North Korea In Talks With US To Free American Detainees

Seoul: North Korea is in talks with the United States and Sweden to release three Americans held in the North, reports said, as diplomatic activities gathered pace ahead of Pyongyang’s planned summits with Washington and Seoul.

The release of the three Korean-Americans – all held in the North after being separately charged with unspecified “hostile acts” against the regime – is under discussion through multiple channels almost two weeks after President Donald Trump agreed to meet the North’s Kim Jong-un, reports said, told AFP.

While Pyongyang has yet to confirm it even made the summit offer – relayed by Seoul envoys who had met Kim in Pyongyang – the 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 on Sunday that Pyongyang and Washington had “practically reached” a final agreement on the release of Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong-chul.

“They are hammering out details over the timing of the release,” it quoted an unnamed South Korean diplomatic source as saying.

The negotiation was held through the North’s mission to the United Nations and 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 on Saturday.

Sweden represents Washington’s interests in talks with the North. It raised the issue of American detainees to “move things in the right direction,” CNN quoted one source as saying.

“Any movement on the issue of these detainees would be a huge deal for the United States.”

Dong-chul, a South Korea-born American pastor, has been held by since 2015 for allegedly spying.

Hak-song and Sang-duk were working at the Pyongyang Univer­sity of Science and Techno­logy, founded by evangelical Chris­tians from overseas, when they were held last year for “hostile acts”.

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