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NKorea nuclear freeze at start of talks: US

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump had a surprise meeting at the end of June in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and agreed to resume a working-level dialogue, stalled since a failed summit in Vietnam in February. The US State Department says it hopes to see a freeze in the North Korean nuclear program as the start of a process of denuclearisation, ahead of fresh talks with Pyongyang likely to take place this month. (Photo: Dong-A ilbo/Sipa USA).

The US State Department says it hopes to see a freeze in the North Korean nuclear program as the start of a process of denuclearisation, ahead of fresh talks with Pyongyang likely to take place this month.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had a surprise meeting at the end of June in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and agreed to resume a working-level dialogue, stalled since a failed summit in Vietnam in February.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the talks would likely happen "sometime in July ... probably in the next two or three weeks."

The Trump administration has dismissed a New York Times report that said US officials may seek to negotiate a nuclear freeze by North Korea, rather than its complete denuclearisation, thereby tacitly accepting it as a nuclear state.

"(A) freeze, you know, that would never be the resolution of a process. That would never be the end of a process," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

"That would (be) something that we would certainly hope to see at the beginning. But I don't think that the administration has ever characterised a freeze as being the end goal. That would be at the beginning of the process."

North Korea has frozen nuclear bomb and missile testing since 2017, but US officials believe it has expanded its arsenal by continuing to produce bomb fuel and missiles. They are keen to see a freeze in this production too.

Ortagus said Washington's goal remained the complete elimination of all of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction.

She said the US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, would meet his South Korean counterpart during a visit to Europe this week to discuss ways to achieve this.

The two sides have yet to even agree a common definition of denuclearisation, which North Korea has taken to include the US nuclear umbrella protecting Japan and South Korea.

Washington has demanded that Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally.

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