April 21 – 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 the weapons, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
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 U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.
The pledge to halt the development of nuclear weapons, initiated by his grandfather, would mean a significant reversal for the young 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 the 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 decentralization 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 is North Korea’s only known nuclear test site, where all of its six underground tests were conducted, including the last and largest in September.
Trump welcomed the statement and said he looked forward to a summit with Kim.
South Korea said the North’s decision signified “meaningful” progress toward decentralization of the peninsula and would create favorable conditions for successful meetings with it and the United States.