U.S., North Korea to resume working-level nuclear talks in Sweden

This photo, taken Oct. 4, 2019, shows the national flags of the United States, North Korea and Sweden (L to R) in a conference facility in Lidingo, northeast of Stockholm. (Yonhap)

This photo, taken Oct. 4, 2019, shows the national flags of the United States, North Korea and Sweden (L to R) in a conference facility in Lidingo, northeast of Stockholm. (Yonhap)

Stockholm: The United States and North Korea were set to resume working-level nuclear talks in Sweden on Saturday, after their preliminary meeting the previous day.

The talks will mark their first formal negotiation since February’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi ended without a deal due to differences over the scope of Pyongyang’s denuclearization and Washington’s compensation.

The countries’ deputy delegation chiefs — Mark Lambert of the U.S. and Kwon Jong-gun of the North — were said to have had preliminary contact in Villa Elfvik Strand in Lidingo, northeast of Stockholm, on Friday to discuss the schedule and administrative issues for the formal resumption of their negotiations.

The pre-negotiation session was said to be “amicable and productive.”

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Myong-gil, will lead Saturday’s talks where they are expected to exchange their basic positions ahead of what could be another grueling tug of war.

Their negotiations will center on how to make substantive progress in the implementation of the landmark agreement that Trump and Kim reached during their first summit in Singapore in June last year.

The agreement includes a set of their commitments to build new bilateral relations, make joint efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the peninsula and work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula.

Uncertainty still shrouds the much-anticipated negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang given that they remain far apart over the scope of Pyongyang’s denuclearization, its disarmament method and what rewards it will receive in return.

Tangible progress from the negotiations is expected to pave the way for a third summit between Trump and Kim.

Before the negotiations, the North’s delegation chief Kim said he bore “high expectations and optimism.”

In recent weeks, top U.S. officials’ statements have also raised optimism about a compromise with Pyongyang.

Trump has made remarks that hinted he is warming to Pyongyang’s call for a “new calculation method,” while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeated conciliatory messages, such as there being a “bright future” for a nuclear-free North Korea.

Citing two U.S. officials, the U.S. magazine Time reported that Trump is prepared to offer Kim a three-year suspension of United Nations sanctions on textile and coal exports if Pyongyang agrees to dismantle its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon and halt its production of highly enriched uranium.

It also cited one of the officials as saying if the United Nations is not willing to follow Trump’s lead, the U.S. could temporarily halt its enforcement of those sanctions.

The U.S. media outlet, Vox, also reported on such an offer on Wednesday.

YONHAP

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