North Korea’s top negotiator said on Saturday that working-level nuclear talks in Sweden between officials from Pyongyang and Washington had broken off.
The North’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, who spent much of the day in talks with an American delegation, cast the blame on what he portrayed as US inflexibility, saying the other side’s negotiators would not “give up their old viewpoint and attitude”, according to Reuters.
“The negotiations have not fulfilled our expectation and finally broke off,” Kim was quoted as having told reporters outside the North Korean embassy, speaking through an interpreter.
The US State Department said Kim’s comments did not reflect “the content or spirit” of more than 8-1/2 hours of talks, and Washington had accepted Sweden’s invitation to return to Sweden for more discussions with Pyongyang in two weeks.
“The US brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
She added that the US delegation had previewed a number of new initiatives that would pave the way for progress in the talks, and underscored the importance of more intensive engagement to solve the many issues dividing both sides.
“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. These are weighty issues, and they require a strong commitment by both countries. The United States has that commitment,” said Ortagus.
The meeting on the outskirts of Stockholm was the first formal working-level discussion between the US and North Korea since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in June and agreed to restart negotiations that stalled after a failed summit in Vietnam in February.
Since the June meeting, North Korea has conducted nine tests of ballistic missiles, including this week when it tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Trump has said he's "not happy" about North Korea's persistent testing of short-range missiles but denied the launches violate any agreement.
Since June, US officials had struggled to persuade North Korea to return to the table, but that appeared to change this week when North Korea abruptly announced it had agreed to hold talks.
On Saturday evening, negotiator Kim Myong Gil accused the United States of having no intention of solving the countries’ difficulties through dialogue, but said a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was still possible.