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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Sunday evening said negotiations with the U.S. would not resume until it receives new security guarantees, following what the DPRK negotiators characterized as a breakdown in talks in Stockholm the previous day.
In a press statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the MFA said the U.S. negotiators had in recent talks failed to “bring any new package [deal], bringing only their existing stance.”
“With no compromise or guarantee, [the U.S.] only repeated vague claims that continuous and intensive negotiations were necessary,” the statement read.
It emphasized multiple times the North Korean side’s expectation that the U.S. bring a “new calculation” to the talks, saying the “fate of U.S.-DPRK talks depends on the attitude of the U.S. given that we have clearly proposed to the U.S. side a solution to the problem.”
“We have no desire to engage in such a revolting negotiation as this one until the U.S. carries out practical measures to completely and irreversibly withdraw its hostile policy which threatens the safety of our nation and undermines our people’s right to survive and develop,” it said.
“The breakdown of the negotiations without producing any results is entirely due to Washington’s failure to abandon its outdated stance and attitude,” Kim said in comments outside the DPRK embassy in Stockholm.
“The United States had raised our expectations by hinting at a flexible approach, new ways, and creative solutions, but has come up with nothing, and it has greatly disappointed us and discouraged us from negotiating,” he continued.
“The U.S. came out empty [handed] without any calculations we asked for. The negotiations failed to live up to our expectations and broke down.”
Sunday evening’s MFA statement also criticized the U.S. characterization of the results of the negotiations, however, as Washington likewise criticized Kim Myong Gil’s statements to the press in Sweden.
It said that despite the DPRK negotiator having made a negative assessment of the talks, “the U.S. is misleading public opinion and did not accurately reflect the content and spirit of the negotiations” by claiming talks went well.
These appear to directly mirror comments from U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Saturday, who said “the early comments from the DPRK delegation do not reflect the content or the spirit of today’s 8 1/2 hour discussion.”
“The U.S. brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts,” she said.
Ortagus added that the two sides “discussed the importance of more intensive engagement to solve the many issues of concern” and that “the U.S. delegation previewed a number of new initiatives that would allow us to make progress in each of the four pillars of the Singapore joint statement.”
And while the State Department also suggested talks could resume in two weeks as the U.S. accepted Sweden’s invitation to return at that time, the MFA press statement called this suggestion a “completely reckless remark.”
It added that North Korea has been convinced through the weekend’s talks that the U.S. “does not possess the political will to improve the relationship.”
In a nod potentially to some analysts suggesting the Trump administration is merely seeking a political win to present to the domestic audience, the statement also said it has come to question this weekend if the U.S. side is “abusing negotiations solely for their partisan political interests.”
But despite placing the ball in Washington’s court in demanding major steps be taken before agreeing to more talks, the statement still did not completely rule out the possibility of further engagement.
“We have already made it clear that U.S.-DPRK dealings could come to an end if the U.S. again toys with their old scheme that is not related to a new calculation method,” it said, without saying talks had already ended entirely.
Rachel Minyoung Lee, senior analyst with NK News’s sister site NK Pro, said Sunday’s statement “leaves the door open for further negotiations by giving the U.S. until the end of the year.”
She cautioned, however, that “the North’s consistent call over the past few weeks for U.S. concessions before it can discuss denuclearization suggests that it will be difficult to expect a breakthrough” unless such concessions are indeed made.
Lee also pointed to another example in the press statement of echoes of U.S. language in the course of negotiations, specifically the demand that the U.S. “completely and irreversibly withdraw its hostile policy” to the DPRK.
“Not only is ‘completely and irreversibly’ reminiscent of ‘complete’ and ‘irreversible’ in the U.S. CVID policy toward the DPRK nuclear issue, this appears to be the first time North Korean state media has used this expression while calling for the withdrawal of US ‘hostile policy,’” Lee said.
“This appears to suggest that Pyongyang may have asked the US for greater concessions on the sanctions and security assurances fronts than anticipated during the Stockholm talks, or that its position on the talks has become harder line after the talks.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News