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 favorable” for its economy, it would “facilitate close contact and active dialogue” with neighboring 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.
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 denuclearization talks, experts say.
“North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site,” Trump tweeted following the announcement. “This is a very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”
News of the testing suspension follows the revelation earlier this week that Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director and secretary of state nominee, met with Kim in North Korea over Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the prospective meeting with Trump. The meeting, Trump said, could occur by early June.
Trump said Pompeo’s meeting “went very smoothly” and said a “good relationship was formed.”
“Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea,” he said.