North Korea and U.S. Say Official Talks Will Resume in Days

By Choe Sang-Hun

ImagePresident Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in June.
President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in June.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea and the United States have agreed to resume a long-stalled official dialogue this weekend in an effort to narrow their differences on how to terminate the North’s nuclear weapons program, officials of both countries said on Tuesday.

“I can confirm that U.S. and D.P.R.K. officials plan to meet within the next week,” Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “I do not have further details to share on the meeting.”

Choe Son-hui, first vice foreign minister of North Korea, said her government and Washington had agreed to hold preliminary contact on Friday, to be followed by official working-level negotiations on Saturday.

“It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the D.P.R.K.-U.S. relations,” Ms. Choe said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

in STYLN_email_trump-0_control_STYLN_email_trump

The statement provided no further details.

North Korean officials have repeatedly indicated their willingness to resume talks with Washington in recent weeks, especially after the ouster of John R. Bolton as President Trump’s national security adviser, and Mr. Trump’s suggestion that he would use a “new method” in negotiations.

North Korea praised the removal of Mr. Bolton as a “wise political decision,” having long blamed hawkish aides to Mr. Trump for the stalemate in negotiations.

When Mr. Trump held his first summit meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore in June 2018, Mr. Kim committed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” in return for better ties and security guarantees with the United States.

But subsequent talks quickly stalled over how to enact the vague agreement. The second meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February ended without a deal on how fast and how thoroughly North Korea should dismantle its nuclear program and how soon the United States would start easing or lifting sanctions.

On Tuesday, South Korea welcomed the agreement to resume dialogue.

“We hope that both sides will use these working-level talks to make quick and concrete progress for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a permanent peace there,” said Ko Min-jung, a spokeswoman for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

Mr. Trump has not clarified what his new method might be.

In Hanoi, Mr. Trump followed Mr. Bolton’s advice when he demanded a quick and comprehensive elimination of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction — including its nuclear warheads and long-range missiles — before lifting sanctions.

But Mr. Kim would not budge from an insistence on a phased rollback of his country’s nuclear program. He offered to first dismantle the facilities at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, where the regime enriches uranium and plutonium, without giving up any existing atomic bombs or missiles.

In return, he demanded that the United States lift the most biting of United Nations sanctions imposed since 2016, including a ban on crucial North Korean exports like coal, iron ore, fish and textiles.

Since the Hanoi talks collapsed, North Korea has threatened to abandon diplomacy completely unless Washington returns to the negotiating table with a more flexible offer by the end of the year. The North has escalated its pressure by conducting a slew of short-range weapons tests since July.