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Kim announces nuke test halt ahead of summit

Published: April 21, 2018 09:45:58 | Updated: April 21, 2018 16:09:27


North Korea will immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests and scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace, the North’s state media said on Saturday, ahead of planned summits with South Korea and the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country no longer needed to conduct nuclear tests or intercontinental ballistic missile tests because it had completed its goal of developing nuclear weapons, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

North Korea said that to create an ‘international environment favourable’ for its economy, it would ‘facilitate close contact and active dialogue’ with neighbouring countries and the international community.

It was the first time Kim directly addressed his position on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs ahead of planned summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week and with US President Donald Trump in late May or early June, reports Reuters.

The pledge to halt the development of nuclear weapons, initiated by his grandfather and continued by his father, would mean a significant reversal for the young, third-generation leader, now 34, who has staked his security on his nuclear arsenal and spent years celebrating such weapons as an integral part of his regime’s legitimacy and power.

A testing freeze and commitment to close a test site alone would fall short of Washington’s demand that Pyongyang completely dismantle all of its nuclear weapons and missiles.

But announcing the concessions now, rather than during summit meetings, shows Kim is serious about denuclearisation talks, experts say.

“The northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK will be dismantled to transparently guarantee the discontinuance of the nuclear test,” KCNA said after Kim convened a plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Worker’s Party on Friday.

The North’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The Pyunggye-ri site in northern North Korea is its only known nuclear test site, where all of its six underground tests were conducted, including the last, its largest-ever detonation, in September.

“We will concentrate all efforts on building a powerful socialist economy and markedly improving the standard of people’s living through the mobilization of all human and material resources of the country,” KCNA said.

Trump welcomed the statement and said he looked forward to a summit with Kim.

“North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit,” Trump said on Twitter.

South Korea said the North’s decision signified ‘meaningful’ progress toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and would create favorable conditions for successful meetings with it and the United States.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he welcomed North Korea’s statement but it must lead to verifiable denuclearisation.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have historically been the main targets of North Korea’s anger.

“We’re all looking for evidence that Kim is really serious about negotiations, and announcements like this certainly suggest he is, and that he is trying to make clear to the world that he is,” said David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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