US and North Korea resume nuclear talks

US and North Korea resume nuclear talks

Pyongyang team leader expresses optimism but concrete outcomes not certain

Journalists wait outside Villa Elfik Strand at Lidingo, outside Stockholm, where US and North Korean nuclear negotiators resumed talks on Saturday. (Reuters Photo)
Journalists wait outside Villa Elfik Strand at Lidingo, outside Stockholm, where US and North Korean nuclear negotiators resumed talks on Saturday. (Reuters Photo)

STOCKHOLM: The United States and North Korea resumed negotiations Saturday on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear programme after months of stalemate following their leaders’ failed summit in February.

The delegations meeting in the Swedish capital are headed by Stephen Biegun, the US Special Representative for North Korea, and his North Korean counterpart Kim Myong-gil.

The focus is on whether the two countries can bridge their gaps over denuclearisation steps and the possible rewards North Korea would receive for its actions.

The latest development comes even as North Korea engaged in what can be seen as the most provocative act since it started talks with the United States last year — the test-firing on Wednesday of what it calls a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile.

At the first US-North Korea summit in Singapore in June last year, Kim Jong-un promised to work toward “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, while President Donald Trump committed to providing security guarantees to Pyongyang.

Their second summit in February in Hanoi broke down, however, when Kim insisted that a significant portion of the UN sanctions against Pyongyang be lifted in return for a partial dismantlement of the country’s nuclear programme.

The two leaders agreed at their June 30 meeting in the Korean truce village of Panmunjom that the countries would restart working-level negotiations.

Kim Myong-gil told reporters before heading to Sweden that he was optimistic about the results of the talks, touching on what he called a new signal coming from the United States.

It is not clear what he meant by the new signal, but it may mean US willingness to make some concessions in contrast to its earlier push to seek complete denuclearisation in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Uncertainty remains over whether there will be any progress, with former US national security adviser John Bolton, who was fired by Trump last month over policy differences, saying recently that he believes the North Korean leader will “never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily” under current circumstances.

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