SEOUL, South Korea — The Latest on diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula (all times local):
Finland says delegates from North and South Korea and the United States have concluded “constructive” unofficial diplomatic talks in the Nordic country that were widely believed to have focused on laying the groundwork for an upcoming meeting between the Koreas and a planned U.S.-North Korea summit.
The Finnish foreign ministry said Wednesday that the tripartite talks were held in a positive atmosphere and aimed at “building confidence and reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”
Eighteen delegates and observers from the United Nations and Europe attended the two-day talks at a state manor house outside Helsinki. Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said Tuesday that denuclearization was not on the agenda.
Among the six North Korean delegates was senior diplomat Choe Kang Il, who handles North American affairs for his government, while the U.S. delegation is believed to have included Kathleen Stephens, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
South Korea has proposed talks with North Korea next week to discuss details of the upcoming summit talks between their leaders.
South Korea’s presidential office said Wednesday it wants preliminary talks at the border on March 29 to determine the exact date and agendas for the summit talks.
Earlier this month, the Koreas agreed to hold leaders’ meeting in late April at the border village of Panmunjom when senior Seoul officials visited Pyongyang.
The Seoul officials said North Korea also proposed talks between its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, and Trump agreed to meet him by the end of May.
The planned summit meetings raised hopes for a breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear crisis.
North Korea’s state media say the country’s moves to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula are evidence of its confidence and national strength, not a sign of weakness.
The attack against criticism of the diplomatic moves is surprising because North Korea’s media have yet to report virtually any of the diplomatic activity. Only U.S. and South Korean officials have said Kim Jong Un plans to meet with President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in by May.
The commentary by the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday acknowledged only that the North has started a “dialogue peace offensive.” It criticized current and former officials and experts in the U.S. and Japan, along with conservatives in South Korea, for suggesting Pyongyang is feeling the sting of increasingly tough sanctions.