STOCKHOLM: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said nuclear talks between US and North Korean officials starting on Saturday (Oct 5) near Stockholm to try to end months of stalemate needed to accomplish a lot of work, but added he was hopeful of progress.
The meeting at an isolated conference centre on the Swedish capital’s outskirts will be the first formal working-level talks since US 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 US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and North Korea’s Kim Myong Gil were expected to meet.
A motorcade carrying North Korean delegation heads for Villa Elfvik on the island of Lidingo off Stockholm, Sweden, Oct 5, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Anna Ringstrom)
Two motorcades entered the secluded centre 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 programme, arrived in Sweden on Thursday after Pyongyang unexpectedly said talks would take place on Oct 5.
Speaking during a visit to Athens on the last leg of a tour of southern Europe, Pompeo said he was hopeful of progress in the nuclear talks although there was much work to do.
“I’m hopeful that we will (make progress). We came with a set of ideas, we hope the North Koreans came with a good spirit and a willingness to try to move forward and implement what President Trump and Chairman Kim agreed to back in Singapore,” he told a news conference.
Pompeo said that still “a lot of work needs to be done”.
Members of the press wait outside Villa Elfik Strand at Lidingo, outside Stockholm, Sweden, Oct 5, 2019, where US top negotiator on North Korea, Stephen Biegun is expected to meet North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil. (Photo: Reuters/Anna Ringstrom)
At the Singapore meeting in June 2018, Kim and Trump agreed to foster new relations and work towards 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 denuclearisation and peaceful solution,” Linde said on Twitter.
Police are seen outside Villa Elfik Strand at Lidingo, outside Stockholm, Sweden, Oct 5, 2019, where US top negotiator on North Korea, Stephen Biegun is expected to meet North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil. (Photo: Reuters/Anna Ringstrom)
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.