Negotiations talks in Sweden between officials from North Korea and US have broken off, North Korea’s top negotiator said late on Saturday 5 October through an interpretor at the North Korean Embassy in Stockholm.
The talks, at an isolated conference centre on the outskirts of Stockholm, were the first such formal discussions 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.
North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, blamed US, saying the US negotiators would not “give up their old viewpoint and attitude”.
The break off brings back memories of the break down of talks in Vietnam, except this time the Koreans are better prepared to lay the blame on the US.
The US State Department defended itself, saying Kim Myong Gil’s comments did not reflect “the content or spirit” and that Washington had accepted Sweden’s invitation to return for more discussions with North Korea in two weeks time.
Kim Myong Gil placed the blame right back a the US negotiators.
“The US raised expectations by offering suggestions like a flexible approach, new method and creative solutions, but they have disappointed us greatly and dampened our enthusiasm for negotiation by bringing nothing to the negotiation table,” he said.
Kim Myong Gil accused the US of having no intention of solving difficulties through dialogue but said complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula was still possible.
It would only happen “when all the obstacles that threaten our safety and check our development are removed completely without a shadow of doubt,” he said, in an apparent reference to North Korea’s desire for Washington to ease economic pressure.
On Sunday, China’s President Xi Jinping and North Korea’s leader exchanged messages to reaffirm the neighbours’ relationship on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. China is North Korea’s only major ally.
Xi, who has met Kim Jong Un five times in the past year, said they had “reached a series of important consensus, leading China-North Korea relations into a new historical era”, the official Xinhua news agency said.
“In accordance with the wishes of both countries’ peoples,” Kim Jong Un replied, the two leaders would “resolutely safeguard the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the world.”
The Swedish foreign office declined to give details on the invitation for new talks, or whether Pyongyang had accepted.