STOCKHOLM: United States and North Korean officials have resumed working-level nuclear talks at an isolated conference centre in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.
This is the first formal discussion since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to restart stall negotiations after they collapsed in February at a summit in Vietnam.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said much work remained to be done at the nuclear talks that aimed at ending a stalemate, expressing hope that “a set of dialogues” would follow in the coming weeks and months.
Police had closed off the approaches to the complex facing the Baltic Sea on the island of Lidingo, where the delegations led by US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and North Korea’s Kim Myong Gil were expected to meet.
Two motorcades entered the secluded center early on Saturday with a police officer confirming one carried the North Korean officials. The other included cars used by Biegun when he met Swedish Foreign Ministry officials on Friday.
The delegation from North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), arrived in Sweden on Thursday after Pyongyang unexpectedly said talks would take place on October 5.
Speaking in Athens on the last leg of a tour of southern Europe, Pompeo said he was hopeful of progress in the nuclear talks.
“We are mindful this will be the first time that we’ve had a chance to have a discussion in quite some time and that there remains to be a lot of work that will have to be done by the two teams,” he told a news conference.
“But we hope these initial meetings can set the course for a set of dialogues that can take place in the coming weeks and months that will really deliver on the commitments that were made in Singapore.”
Kim and Trump agreed to foster new relations and work toward the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula at the Singapore meeting in June 2018,
Earlier on Saturday, newly-appointed Foreign Minister Ann Linde had given Sweden’s first acknowledgment of the negotiations while a foreign ministry spokesman also confirmed the working-level talks.
“I am encouraged that US and DPRK working level delegations are currently in Sweden to hold talks. Dialogue needed to reach denuclearization and peaceful solution,” Linde said on Twitter.
North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil left the talks to return to the country’s embassy, located on the same island as the conference facility, but later headed back for an afternoon session.
Only a day after announcing the resumption of talks, North Korea said it had test-fired a new ballistic missile designed for submarine launch, a provocative gesture that also underscored the need for Washington to move quickly to negotiate limits on Pyongyang’s growing arsenal.