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North Korea Says Nuclear Talks Broke Down, but U.S. Disagrees

Ros Krasny and Todd Shields

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea said it’s not keen to hold more talks with the U.S. until measures are taken to withdraw Washington’s “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.

The U.S. was using this weekend’s talks in Stockholm for the benefit of its domestic politics, the Yonhap report said, citing a statement from the North Korean foreign ministry. North Korea said denuclearization talks broke down on Saturday, a characterization disputed by the Trump administration, which cited “good discussions” during the session in Stockholm.

The talks were the first in about eight months between the U.S. and North Korea, which has been pushing Washington to ease sanctions while staging missile tests seen as provocative.

“The negotiation did not live up to our expectations and broke down. I am very displeased,” Kim Myong Gil, the top North Korean nuclear envoy, was cited as saying by Yonhap. He said the U.S. arrived at the meetings “empty handed.”

Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said that “the early comments” from North Korea’s delegation “do not reflect the content or the spirit of today’s 8 1/2 hour discussion.”

The U.S. delegation previewed “a number of new initiatives” and accepted a Swedish invitation to continue the talks in two weeks, Ortagus said in an emailed statement. North Korea said it’s “groundless” to say there will be another meeting later this month, Yonhap reported.

The U.S. also “discussed the importance of more intensive engagement to solve the many issues of concern for both sides,” Ortagus said.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held summits in Singapore in June 2018 and in Vietnam in February. They had a third, informal meeting June 30 at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean Peninsula. Trump walked across the border to become the first U.S. president to set foot in North Korean territory.

Personal diplomacy with Kim has been a cornerstone of Trump’s foreign policy, but the warm feelings haven’t translated into progress in nuclear disarmament by North Korea. The country’s leader Kim has given Trump until the end of the year to change course or risk a new path.

The talks in Stockholm were led by Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, and his counterpart, Kim, Yonhap reported earlier.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier on Saturday in Greece offered cautious optimism on the talks.

“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,” Pompeo said at a press conference in Athens, according to a State Department transcript.

North Korea tested a new, submarine-based ballistic missile on Wednesday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. It was the longest-range weapon tested by Pyongyang since November 2017, and the first sent from a submarine in almost three years. South Korea’s military estimated the missile flew 910 kilometers (565 miles) into space before falling into the sea.

Trump on Thursday brushed off the overnight ballistic missile launch. In August, Trump tweeted that Kim had made “a small apology” for testing short-range missiles while the U.S. and South Korean militaries were engaged in a joint exercise.

Since Trump and Kim first met, weapons experts have said North Korea’s been adding fissile material to its nuclear arsenal and improving its ability to launch a nuclear strike against the U.S. and two of its key Asian allies, Japan and South Korea.

--With assistance from Chiara Vasarri.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ros Krasny in Washington at rkrasny1@bloomberg.net;Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Shamim Adam, Ros Krasny

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