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North Korean Leader Says Pyongyang Will Suspend Nuclear, Missile Tests


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to freeze nuclear and missile tests. (file photo).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his country will freeze tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and close down a nuclear test site, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports.

"From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles," Yonhap quoted North Korean state media as saying.

"The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country's northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests," the official KCNA news agency said, according to Yonhap.

KCNA also said North Korea will join international efforts to halt nuclear tests entirely.

"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 a ruling party meeting, KCNA reported.

"The northern nuclear test site has completed its mission," he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump reacted to Pyongyang’s announcement with a Twitter post, calling it “big progress!” and saying it was "very good news for North Korea and the world," while the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement that the halt was a “positive step that was long awaited.”

The British government added in a statement that it hopes the move indicates an effort to negotiate in good faith.

"A long-term commitment from Kim Jong Un to halt all nuclear tests and ICBM launches would be a positive step. We hope this indicates an effort to negotiate in good faith," the British government said in a statement.

"We remain committed to working with our international partners to bring about our goal of a complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and to do so through peaceful means."

China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, even if it has been frustrated by its development of nuclear weapons, welcomed the announcement, saying it would ease tension and promote denuclearization.

"The Chinese side believes that North Korea's decision will help ameliorate the situation on the peninsula," a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said in a statement.

However, Japan said it was not satisfied with North Korea’s announcement and said it would maintain political pressure on Pyongyang until it committed to the "ultimate abandonment of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear arms, and missiles."

"We can't be satisfied," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Washington, adding that Pyongyang did not say anything about "abandonment of short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles."

Tensions have risen between Pyongyang and the United States, South Korea, Japan, and other countries over North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

In 2017, North Korea carried out tests of ballistic missiles, saying it had gained the ability to hit the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons, although that was not confirmed by Western experts.

The U.S., European Union, the UN Security Council, and others have imposed crippling financial sanctions against North Korea.

Pyongyang had recently made conciliatory remarks toward the global community, raising hopes of a settlement to the crisis.

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