The top U.S. envoy on North Korea has reported some progress after the first day of talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the second direct encounter between both sides in less than three months.
Speaking to reporters and TV cameras Monday night as he re-entered his lakeside hotel after their first meeting at the United States’ U.N. mission in Geneva, Stephen Bosworth called himself “neither optimistic nor pessimistic.’’
“We have had a good day of talks. I think we’re moving in a positive direction. We have narrowed some differences, but we still have differences that we have to resolve,” he said in brief remarks in the lobby of the hotel where the two sides are staying, either by design or coincidence.
He was accompanied by Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is taking over the negotiating brief in future talks.
Bosworth said the United States and North Korea were “conducting very intensive discussions” and would continue to try to narrow their differences, but did not provide more specifics.
The parties met for two hours Monday morning before breaking to have lunch separately. After a three-hour halt the talks resumed for a few hours in the afternoon. The Koreans then returned at night for dinner at the U.S. mission.
Their opposite on North Korea’s delegation is First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
“I would say that they have been ongoing in a businesslike atmosphere,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing, followed by media reports that the first-day session in Geneva, Switzerland, had finished.
She emphasized that the two-day “exploratory” discussions were to follow up on the bilateral talks in New York in late July.
“Our sense was that the North Koreans needed to absorb our message,” Nuland said. “So we look forward, in this round, to hearing what they have taken from what we said in July and whether we are able to make progress now, particularly on the nuclear side.”
U.S. diplomats have previously said they want North Korea to adhere to a 2005 agreement it reneged on requiring verifiable denuclearization in exchange for better relations with its Asian neighbors.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, urged Pyongyang to improve its strained ties with United States and South Korea, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.
Beijing wants to revive the stalled six-nation disarmament negotiations, which also include South Korea, Japan and Russia. North Korea walked out on the talks in 2009 ― and exploded a second nuclear-test device ― but now wants to re-engage. Last year, Pyongyang also was blamed for two military attacks on South Korea that heightened tensions on the peninsula.
The two sides were scheduled to reconvene at North Korea’s mission on Tuesday.
The second-day session is expected to take place at the North Korean mission in Geneva. The North’s delegation has been silent, marking a contrast to its relatively frequent media contact in New York.