US and North Korea break off talks for now, officials say

The working-level talks between the United States and North Korea in Stockholm, Sweden, have concluded for the time being, US and North Korean officials said Saturday.

Painting different pictures of the meeting, US officials said they “had good discussion” while North Korea’s top negotiator blamed the ended talks on Washington.

“The break-up of the negotiation without any outcome is totally due to the fact that the US would not give up their old viewpoint and attitude,” Kim Myong Gil, North Korea’s top negotiator, said.

But the State Department disagreed with Kim’s characterization Saturday, saying his comments “do not reflect the content or the spirit of today’s 8 ½ hour discussion.”

“In the course of the discussions, the U.S. delegation reviewed events since the Singapore summit, and discussed the importance of more intensive engagement to solve the many issues of concern for both sides,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“The U.S. brought creative ideas and had good discussion with its DPRK counterparts,” she said.

The US said it previewed “a number of new initiatives that would allow us to make progress in each of the four pillars of the Singapore joint statement.”

Kim earlier told reporters in Stockholm that “the negotiations have not fulfilled our expectation and finally broke up.”

Kim said the talks were “held at a crucial moment when the situation on the Korean peninsula stands at the crossroads of dialogue or confrontation.” Negotiations on denuclearization have stalled since February — when President Donald Trump cut short his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi. Trump left the meeting with no joint agreement after Kim insisted all US sanctions be lifted on his country.

The two leaders last met in June in the Korean Demilitarized Zone where they agreed to revive staff-level talks.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Saturday the US was “very hopeful” they would “make some progress.”

“There remains to be a lot of work that’s to be done by the two teams,” Pompeo said.

American officials said Saturday that they have accepted the Swedish invitation to return to Stockholm in two weeks to continue discussions.

North Korea, however, cast doubt Sunday on continuing the working-level talks, with the country’s Foreign Ministry accusing the US of spreading “a completely ungrounded story” that the sides are open to meet in two weeks.

“We have already made it clear that if the US again fingers at the old scenario which has nothing to do with new calculation method, the dealings between the DPRK and the US may immediately come to an end,” the ministry said in a statement.

This story has been updated with additional developments Sunday.

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