North Korea Missile And Nuclear Test Halt Hailed
North Korea’s announcement that it is halting nuclear and missile tests has received a broad international welcome.
Leader Kim Jong-un said further tests were not needed, as the North had demonstrated it had nuclear weapons.
Donald Trump described the move as “good news” for the world, and South Korea said it was meaningful progress.
The EU said it was “positive”, but called for complete denuclearisation. North Korea is preparing for historic summits with South Korea and the US.
Early on Saturday Kim Jong-un said: “From 21 April, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
The surprise announcement, relayed by the country’s KCNA news agency, also said a test site would be shut down.
Welcoming it on Twitter, Mr Trump said he was looking forward to a face-to-face meeting with Mr Kim in June.
Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are due to meet next week for the first inter-Korean summit in over a decade.
Mr Moon’s office said the North’s decision would “contribute to creating a very positive environment for the success of the upcoming South-North summit and North-United States summit.”
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it was a “long sought-after step” that should lead to “verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation”.
The call was echoed by the UK. The statement from the British government added: “We hope this indicates an effort to negotiate in good faith.”
In his statement, Mr Kim said it was no longer necessary to conduct missile tests because “nuclear weaponisation” had been achieved.
This echoes a previous statement made during a New Year address in which Mr Kim declared his nuclear and ballistic missile programmes completed.
Although Pyongyang said it would abolish its nuclear test site, there is no indication it is planning to get rid of its existing weapons.
The decision to halt missile tests is also aimed at pursuing economic growth, according to KCNA. Mr Kim reportedly pledged to “concentrate all efforts” on developing a socialist economy during Friday’s meeting.
These concessions from North Korea have come before the two anticipated summits with the US and South Korea.
One may wonder why Mr Kim should give up so much in advance instead of hanging on to a nuclear test-ban and an ICBM moratorium as aces up his sleeve.
The answer is simple: a summit with a US president is enough of a prize in itself. For Mr Kim, it’s something that neither his grandfather nor his father could attain.
What North Korea loses by demolishing its nuclear test site and submitting to a unilateral moratorium on ICBM launches is entirely tolerable compared with what Mr Kim gains by sitting alongside President Trump.