Preparations for Korea-US summit. Moon's approval ratings hit 74%

Seoul reassures Tokyo over meetings as necessary for peace on the peninsula, and urges for a preliminary summit with Kim Jong Un. North Korean Foreign Minister flies to Sweden. "Sports diplomacy" continues. But some experts warn: a nuclear reactor active, the purpose is not clear.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Korean peninsula is in diplomatic turmoil, waiting for the historic meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas and the United States, which should be held in the coming months, in a climate of hope that is pushing the approval index of the South Korean president Moon Jae-in to74%.

Today, Moon spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a 45-minute phone call, during which the South Korean leader reiterated the importance of the Tokyo-Pyongyang dialogue to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula. The assurances came in a context of Japan's concern that it may be "excluded" from the dialogue.

Meanwhile, Seoul is urging neighboring North Korea for a high-level summit prior to the meeting between Moon and Kim Jong-un, scheduled for April.

Some observers see the recent visit of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Stockholm, as a "preparatory" act for the possible meeting between Kim Jong Un and the American president Donald Trump, expected by May.

The North Korean state agency, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reports that Ri left yesterday for a two-day trip, passing through Beijing. Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Elisabeth Wallstrom, wrote on the ministry website that the discussion will focus on Sweden's consular responsibilities as a "protective force for the United States, Canada and Australia" and on the "security situation on the Korean peninsula". Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, has repeatedly been a channel of communication between the US and North Korea.

In addition, as already in the context of the PyeongChang Olympics, sport and the arts return to play a prominent role in trying to maintain an atmosphere of détente. South Korea will send a team of taekwondo athletes in mid-April, and an artistic troupe to Pyongyang. It is not clear whether the two groups will travel together or at different times.

A dissonant note, however, seems to come from some Western experts, according to which North Korea may have just these last weeks started preliminary tests to one of its nuclear reactors at the Yongbyon research center. According to a report by intelligence analysts, some images taken on February 25 at an experimental light water reactor (Elwr) show it active and ready to become operational "with little warning". It is not clear at the moment whether the reactor is used to generate electricity or armaments.