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North Korea-U.S. Talks Break Down


Sickening - that is what North Korea called its nuclear talks with U.S. officials that took place in Sweden on Saturday. North Korean negotiators also say they see no point in continuing talks unless the United States changes its attitude. Here's more from NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Seoul.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Before the talks broke down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded upbeat at a press conference in Athens. But he admitted that after a seven-month hiatus the two sides had a lot of catching up to do.


MIKE POMPEO: We came with a set of ideas. We hope that the North Koreans came with a good spirit and a willingness to try to move forward to implement what President Trump and Chairman Kim agreed to back in Singapore.

KUHN: Trump and Kim held their first summit in June of 2018 in Singapore. But after eight hours of talks in Stockholm, North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil said the North was disappointed. He said that after signaling that it would rethink its position and be more flexible, the U.S. brought nothing new to the table. It looks like a familiar problem - the U.S. wants North Korea to give up its nukes first, and North Korea wants the U.S. to lift sanctions first.

JOHN DELURY: They have very little room to work with. It's very easy to fail.

KUHN: John Delury, an international relations expert at Yonsei University in Seoul, says deep-seated skepticism on both sides is hard to overcome.

DELURY: Either side, if it looks like they conceded first, you know, then they get hammered domestically and internally. And so both sides want the other to go first.

KUHN: State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that the U.S. had floated several possible ways to move forward and had accepted Sweden's invitation to continue talks in two weeks' time. But North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it sees no point in further talks unless the U.S. drops what it calls its old, hostile policies. Pyongyang also accused the U.S. of using the talks to score domestic political points, implying, says John Delury, that...

DELURY: Trump is looking to reelection November 2020, and he's not focused on now.

KUHN: Kim Myong Gil reminded the U.S. that Kim Jong Un has given the U.S. until year's end to offer up an acceptable deal or Pyongyang will give up on negotiations.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBINATE'S "ELLIPSIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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