SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Sunday that it has no desire to engage in more "sickening negotiations" with the United States unless Washington abandons its "hostile policy" against Pyongyang.
The statement came a day after the sides met in Stockholm to restart talks after an eight-month impasse -- and then disagreed publicly over how the negotiations went.
President Donald Trump's administration described the working-level talks as a "good discussion" that it intends to build on with more talks in two weeks. But the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the talks left officials "skeptical about the U.S. political will" to improve relations, arguing that the U.S. was more interested in claiming a major diplomatic achievement than in satisfying the North's demands.
"As we have clearly identified the way for solving the problem, the fate of the future DPRK-U.S. dialogue depends on the U.S. attitude, and the end of this year is its deadline," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, using the abbreviation of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The statement was carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.
The deadline for mutually acceptable proposals to salvage the nuclear talks is key, said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea specialist at the Sejong Institute in South Korea. He said that at the end of this year, countries such as China and Russia will be required under United Nations sanctions to expel all North Korean workers.
Such overseas workers are a major source of hard currency for the North Korean regime, and North Korea hopes talks with the U.S. lead to sanctions relief that could allow those workers to stay put.
The top North Korean nuclear envoy, Kim Myong Gil, said Saturday night that the working-level talks had broken off "entirely due to the United States' failure to abandon its outdated viewpoint and attitude."
Trump said last month that he was open to exploring a "new method" in the negotiations, and the North Korean envoy quickly responded with a statement welcoming such a move. North Korea wanted the U.S. to abandon the "Libyan model" promoted by former national security adviser John Bolton. Under that approach, North Korea would ship out its nuclear weapons before receiving sanctions relief.
But after Kim Myong Gil met with his U.S. counterpart, Stephen Biegun, he said the talks in Stockholm had collapsed because the U.S. side arrived "empty-handed," with no new proposals.
The North Korean envoy said his country proposed a suspension of talks until December. He said North Korea also made it clear that the two countries can discuss the North's next denuclearization steps if the United States "sincerely responds" to previous measures taken by Pyongyang, including the suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests and the closure of its underground nuclear testing site.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the chief North Korean negotiator's comments about Saturday's talks did "not reflect the content or the spirit" of the 8½ hours of discussions.
She said the U.S. delegation "previewed a number of new initiatives that would allow us to make progress in each of the four pillars" of a joint statement issued after Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's summit in Singapore in June 2018. Those pillars are official diplomatic relations between U.S. and North Korea, peace that includes an end to military exercises, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the return of the remains of hundreds of missing U.S. soldiers from the Korean War.
Ortagus also said the U.S. accepted an invitation from Sweden to return to Stockholm in two weeks to continue talks. Because the U.S. does not have official diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sweden has often acted as a bridge between Washington and Pyongyang.
When it entered talks with the U.S. last year, North Korea said it was willing to deal away its advancing nuclear arsenal in return for outside political and economic benefits. But many foreign experts doubt whether North Korea would completely abandon a nuclear program that it has built after decades of struggle.
Before the Singapore talks, North Korea had long said it would denuclearize only if the U.S. withdrew its 28,500 troops from South Korea, ended military drills with the South and took other steps to guarantee the North's security.
At the Singapore meeting, Trump called for an end to U.S.-South Korea military drills on the Korean Peninsula. The proposal took officials in Washington and Seoul by surprise.
The United States and South Korea have since scaled down the joint military drills. But Pyongyang accused Washington of reneging on its commitments and threatened to resume missile tests.
Saturday's talks were the first between the sides since the second Trump-Kim summit, held in Vietnam in February, collapsed because of disagreements over how much sanctions relief should be given to North Korea in return for dismantling its main nuclear complex. The two leaders held a brief, impromptu meeting at the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume staff-level negotiations to try to narrow their differences.
Trump has said that he can accomplish what his predecessors, including former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, had tried but failed to achieve: the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons and their production facilities.
But the talks in Stockholm were doomed by the same problem that has bedeviled previous negotiations between the two countries: deep differences over what the "complete denuclearization" of the peninsula entails and what concessions the countries should offer to each other in the first step toward that goal.
At the Vietnam meeting, North Korea offered to dismantle a key nuclear fuel production center, but only if the U.S. removed the most biting of the international sanctions, such as the ban on its key exports including coal and textiles. Trump insisted on a quick and comprehensive elimination of all the North's nuclear warheads, as well as their means of delivery and production facilities, before easing any of the international sanctions.
Officials and analysts in South Korea saw the North as resorting to its characteristic brinkmanship to gain leverage over Washington, rather than giving up dialogue completely. The country is seeking to "maximize benefits and minimize concessions," said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul.
But that attitude may backfire on North Korea, said Kim Dong Yub, a North Korea expert at the Seoul-based Institute for Far Eastern Studies.
"The negotiations likely have floundered from the beginning because North Korea and the United States both sought to get too much while offering too little," he said.
Information for this article was contributed by Choe Sang-Hun of The New York Times; by Min Joo Kim of The Washington Post; and by Hyung-Jin Kim and Matthew Lee of The Associated Press.
A Section on 10/07/2019