Kim Jong Un has announced North Korea will suspend all missile tests and plans to close the site where its six previous nuclear tests were conducted ahead of landmark talks with Donald Trump.
The US-North Korea meeting is scheduled for May or June, and although no location has been decided plans are continuing apace, with CIA director Mike Pompeo flying to Pyongyang for talks with Kim over the Easter weekend.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is also due to meet the dictator on April 27 at a border truce village for a rare summit focused on nuclear issues.
Kim Jong Un speaking at the ruling party’s Central Committee on Friday where he made the announcement
President Trump heralded Friday’s announcement, tweeting: ‘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.’
He later added: ‘A message from Kim Jong Un: ‘North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.” Also will “Shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s Northern Side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests.” Progress being made for all!’
South Korea also welcomed the decision, saying it represented ‘meaningful progress for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’.
But Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said he was not satisfied with the announcement, and demanded pressure be kept up on North Korea until it abandons its missile programme in a complete, irreversible and verifiable way.
The decision was made in a meeting of the ruling party’s full Central Committee which had convened to discuss a ‘new stage’ of policies.
‘As the weaponization of nuclear weapons has been verified, it is not necessary for us to conduct any more nuclear tests or test launches of mid- and long range missiles or ICBMs,’ Kim told the assembled party cadres. He then added: ‘The northern nuclear test site has completed its mission.’
Kim’s latest comments echoed those he made in a New Year’s speech, in which he claimed the development of the state nuclear force had been completed.
This followed a test in November during which the North claimed to have launched nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the mainland United States.
This achievement, completely unverified by outside authorities, was the stated aim of North Korea’s nuclear programme and explains Kim’s reference to already have secured the ‘weaponization or nuclear weapons’ [sic] in his comments on Friday.
South Korean envoys have previously cited Kim as promising no more tests, but the recent news is the first such announcement directly by Pyongyang.
The party decided that nuclear and ICBM launches will cease as of Saturday – it has not carried any out since November – and the atomic test site at Punggye-ri ‘will be abolished’.