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Two Koreas, U.S. end semiofficial talks in Finland

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A three-way semiofficial meeting between the two Koreas and the United States in Finland ended on Wednesday, the Finnish foreign ministry said, describing the talks as constructive, reported Yonhap News Agency (South Korea).

Choe Kang-il, Deputy Director-General for North American Affairs at the Pyongyang foreign ministry, had been holding discussions with former diplomats and researchers from South Korea and the U.S. in Helsinki since Monday. The South Korean side included Shin Kak-soo, former ambassador to Japan; Shin Jung-seung, former ambassador to China; and Prof. Kim Joon-hyung of Handong Global University. The U.S. delegation included former U.S. ambassadors to South Korea Kathleen Stephens and Thomas Hubbard.

During the meeting, the parties were expected to exchange opinions on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and on an inter-Korean summit slated for late April and a U.S.-North Korea summit expected in May.

"The participants had a constructive exchange of views in a positive atmosphere," Kimmo Lahdevirta, head of the Asia desk at the Finnish foreign ministry, told reporters at a government manor in Northern Helsinki where the delegates had been secluded.

Lahdevirta added that the meeting was "one of a series of academic sessions over many years that have explored approaches to building confidence and reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula." He declined to elaborate on the agenda.

Experts predicted that the meeting would serve as a chance to prepare for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's summits planned with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Choe was included in North Korea's high-level delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in late February. His visit to South Korea had raised prospects about possible contact between the U.S. and North Korea.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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