STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said much work remained to be done at U.S.-North Korean nuclear talks that began in Sweden on Saturday aimed at ending a stalemate, expressing hope that “a set of dialogues” would follow in coming weeks and months.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference with Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, after a meeting in Podgorica, Montenegro, October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic
The meeting at an isolated conference center on the Swedish capital’s outskirts is the first formal working-level discussion since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in June and agreed to restart negotiations that stalled after a failed summit in Vietnam in February.
Police had closed off the approaches to the complex facing the Baltic Sea on the island of Lidingo, where the delegations led by U.S. 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), which is under sanctions banning much of its trade due to its nuclear program, arrived in Sweden on Thursday after Pyongyang unexpectedly said talks would take place on Oct. 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.”
At the Singapore meeting in June 2018, Kim and Trump agreed to foster new relations and work toward the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
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 told reporters on emerging hours later that he was heading back for an afternoon session.
Analysts have said the leaders of both countries face growing incentives to reach a deal, although it is unclear whether common ground can be found after months of tension and deadlock.
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.
Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, Johan Ahlander, Niklas Pollard and Philip O’Connor in Stockholm; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Michele Kambas in Athens; Joori Roh in Seoul; writing by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Alexander Smith, William Maclean