Asia Pacific

North Korea says nuclear talks with U.S. broke down; Washington expects progress in two weeks

AP, AFP-JIJI, Bloomberg

North Korea’s chief negotiator said Saturday that nuclear talks with the U.S. had broken down, but Washington maintained the two sides had “good discussions” in Sweden that it intends to build on in two weeks.

The North Korean negotiator, Kim Miyong Gil, said the talks in Stockholm had “not fulfilled our expectations and broke down. I am very displeased about it.” Speaking outside the North Korean Embassy, he read a statement in Korean that a translator next to him read in English.

Kim said negotiations broke down “entirely because the U.S. has not discarded its old stance and attitude.”

Saturday’s talks were the first between the U.S. and North Korea since the February breakdown of the second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

North Korea has since resumed missile tests, including an underwater-launched missile that fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone Wednesday.

North Korea frequently couples diplomatic overtures with military moves as a way of maintaining pressure on negotiating partners, analysts say, and may believe the new weapons system gives it added leverage.

The Pentagon said Thursday the missile seems to have been launched from a “sea-based platform” and not a submarine.

Trump has said he sees no problem with a string of short-range rocket tests conducted previously by North Korea, while insisting his personal ties with Kim remain good.

The United Nations Security Council meanwhile is expected to hold closed-door talks early next week on the latest test, diplomats said.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Kim’s comments did “not reflect the content or the spirit” of the “good discussions” lasting 8½ hours, adding that the U.S. had accepted an invitation from Sweden to return to Stockholm in two weeks to continue discussions.

In a statement, Ortagus said the U.S. delegation “previewed a number of new initiatives that would allow us to make progress in each of the four pillars” of a joint statement issued after Trump and Kim’s first summit in Singapore.

“The United States and the DPRK will not overcome a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean Peninsula through the course of a single Saturday,” Ortagus said

Talks were held at the Villa Elfvik Strand conference facility in Lidingo, an island in the Stockholm archipelago located northeast of the capital. The Swedish news agency TT said that Kim Miyong Gil arrived on Thursday and the U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, came on Friday.

Because the U.S. does not have official diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sweden has often acted as a bridge between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea and China marked 70 years of diplomatic relations on Sunday, with Chinese President Xi Jinping promising to promote a “long-term, sound and stable” relationship with North Korea, state news agency Xinhua said.

Kim Jong Un also sent a message to Xi, saying their countries’ “invincible friendship will be immortal on the road of accomplishing the cause of socialism,” said Pyongyang’s state news agency, KCNA.

North Korea was among the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China after it was founded in 1949.

Since March 2018, Xi and Kim have met five times.

North Korea sent a group of working-level officials to Dandong, China, a week ago to prepare for a possible visit by its leader Kim Jong Un, according to South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo.

“It won’t be surprising if Kim visits China soon,” a person familiar with North Korean issues was quoted by the newspaper as saying. An unnamed South Korean official told the newspaper that the country is watching closely for a possible surprise visit to China by Kim.