- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2019

The much-anticipated resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations with North Korea got off to a rocky start Saturday, with Pyongyang saying talks had collapsed within hours, while U.S. officials claimed there were “good discussions” and expressed hope for another round later this month.

The State Department quickly pushed back Saturday evening at a North Korean statement that the working-level talks in Sweden “broke down” because the American delegation had shown up “empty-handed.”

“The early comments from the DPRK delegation do not reflect the content or the spirit of today’s eight-and-a-half hour discussion,” the State Department said in a statement. “The U.S. brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts.”

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“The U.S. delegation previewed a number of new initiatives,” the statement said, asserting that the goal was to “make progress” on the basic agreement reached in Singapore last year between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to pursue denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The State Department’s statement came after North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Myong-gil had offered an entirely different take during an appearance Saturday in front of the North Korean Embassy on the outskirts of Stockholm after holding talks with his American counterpart, U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun.

“The negotiation did not live up to our expectations and broke down. I am very displeased,” Mr. Kim said, according to a report on his comments by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “It is entirely because the U.S. has not discarded its old stance and attitude that the negotiation this time failed to produce any results.”

Saturday’s talks in Sweden marked the first time the two sides have engaged in in-depth working-level talks since negotiations broke down in February during at a second summit that Mr. Trump had with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Hanoi talks collapsed over Mr. Kim’s demand that the U.S. deliver sweeping sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial dismantling of his nuclear arsenal. The North Korean leader’s posture at the time was widely seen to be a response to an apparent all-or-nothing offer put forward by the American side in Hanoi.

Analysts have said the U.S. officers were likely to embrace more of a “step-by-step” approach at this weekend’s working-level talks in Sweden and see what the North Korean side brought to the table in response.

But the North’s negotiator Kim Myong-gil claimed Saturday that the talks “did not live up to [Pyongyang’s] expectations and broke down.”

“I am very displeased,” he said. “It is entirely because the U.S. has not discarded its old stance and attitude that the negotiation this time failed to produce any results.”

U.S. officials were frustrated by the remark.

“The United States and the [North Korea] will not overcome a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean Peninsula through the course of a single Saturday,” the State Department said in its statement. “These are weighty issues, and they require a strong commitment by both countries. The United States has that commitment.”

The statement also said the U.S. side had indicated at the end of Saturday’s talks that it seeks to hold another round in Stockholm in two weeks.

It was not clear Saturday night whether the North Korean side plans to show up.

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