(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea said Sunday that it won’t meet again with the United States unless it abandons its “hostile policy” against the North, as the two countries offered different takes on their weekend nuclear negotiations in Sweden.
After their first talks in more than seven months in Stockholm on Saturday, the chief North Korean nuclear negotiator said the talks broke down “entirely because the U.S. has not discarded its old stance and attitude” and came to the negotiating table with an “empty hand.” But the U.S. said the two sides had “good discussions” that it intends to build on in two weeks.
On Sunday night, the North’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing the U.S. of trying to mislead public opinion and “spreading a completely ungrounded story that both sides are open to meet” again.
The statement said the Stockholm talks “made us think they have no political will to improve (North Korea)-U.S. relations and may be abusing the bilateral relations for their own partisan interests” at home.
It said North Korea isn’t willing to hold “such sickening negotiations” as those in Stockholm until the U.S. takes “a substantial step to make complete and irreversible withdrawal of the hostile policy toward” the North.
It said the U.S. policy “threatens the security” of North Korea and “hampers the rights to existence and development of its people.”
North Korea has said it has no other option but to develop nuclear weapons to cope with what it calls a U.S. plot to invade the country. The North has also said rounds of U.S.-led sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs are stifling its economy.
Early last year, North Korea entered talks with the U.S. over the fate of its advancing nuclear arsenal in return for political and economic benefits from the U.S.
Saturday’s talks were the first between the sides since the February breakdown of the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam. The two leaders held a brief, impromptu meeting at the Korean border in late June and agreed to restart diplomacy.
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 “good discussions” that took place over 8 ½ hours. She also said the U.S. accepted an invitation from Sweden to return to Stockholm in two weeks to continue talks.