According to media reports, a deal has been reached which will see North Korea release all three detained Americans they are presently holding. The deal was negotiated during North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s visit to Stockholm, and Swedish officials were heavily involved.
The release of the detained US citizens would be a major boost for bilateral ties. This obviously would have a positive impact on the Trump-Kim talks. It has also led to the restarting of the New York diplomatic track, where US and North Korean officials at the UN can engage in sideline diplomacy.
Tripartite talks between officials from the US, North Korea, and South Korea are also now said to be coming up in Helsinki, Finland. A North Korean Foreign Ministry official, Choe Kang-il, has flown to Finland for the talks Sunday, out of China.
These talks are clearly a lower-level negotiation than the Kim-Trump summit will be. Finnish officials are terming it a “track 1.5 academic meeting.” It is a testament to the progress in diplomacy already made on the Korean Peninsula, however, as such talks would’ve been unthinkable just a few months ago.
There is still no scheduled date for the Kim-Trump talks, which are obviously looming very large over everything else. North Korea’s willingness to release these American citizens underscores how eager they are to bolster relations with the US ahead of the talks. It’s clearly a very positive step.