WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. special representative for North Korea held three days of talks in Pyongyang to prepare a second summit to be held this month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the State Department said on Friday, while giving no indication of any progress in the meetings.
The State Department said Stephen Biegun had agreed with his counterpart Kim Hyok Chol to meet again ahead of the summit, which Washington has said will take place from Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam.
In their talks in Pyongyang from Wednesday until Friday Biegun and Kim Hyok Chol “discussed advancing President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearisation, transforming U.S.-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.” the State Department said. Its statement, which referred to North Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave no indication of any progress in the talks.
Just weeks ahead of the planned summit to follow on from an unprecedented first meeting between the leaders in Singapore last June, the two sides have appeared far from narrowing differences over U.S. demands for North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States.
Biegun said last week his Pyongyang talks would be aimed at seeking progress on commitments made in Singapore and mapping out “a set of concrete deliverables” for the second summit.
He said Washington was willing to discuss “many actions” to improve ties and entice Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and that Trump was ready to end the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Biegun said Kim Jong Un committed during an October visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the dismantling and destruction of plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities and that “corresponding measures” demanded by North Korea would be the subject of his talks.
At the same time, he set out an extensive list of demands that North Korea would have to meet eventually, including full disclosure of its nuclear and missile programs, something Pyongyang has rejected for decades.
Trump, eager for a foreign policy win to distract from domestic troubles, has been keen for a second summit despite a lack of significant moves by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. He and Biegun have stressed the economic benefits to North Korea if it does so.
Trump announced the plan for his second meeting with Kim in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, but the exact location for the meeting in Vietnam has yet to be revealed.
Trump said much work remained to be done in the push for peace with North Korea, but cited the halt in its nuclear testing and no new missile launches in 15 months as proof of progress.
The Singapore summit yielded a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, where U.S. troops have been stationed since the Korean War.
While in the U.S. view North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons, Pyongyang complains that Washington has done little to reciprocate for its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some facilities.
Pyongyang has repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.
South Korea’s Yonhap News agency quoted that country’s foreign ministry as saying that Biegun arrived back in Seoul from Pyongyang on Friday evening, Seoul time, and would meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Saturday morning to provide a briefing on the results of his talks.