North Korea: Kim Jong Un announces pause of nuclear program | News | DW | 20.04.2018
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North Korea: Kim Jong Un announces pause of nuclear program

In a historic move, North Korea's leader has announced an indefinite halt to nuclear and ballistic missile programs. With major international summits ahead, Pyongyang is hoping to consolidate diplomatic gains.

On Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that his country would suspend nuclear and missile tests indefinitely and shut down a nuclear test site, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing North Korea's official KCNA.

Kim's announcement marks the first time that North Korea's regime has officially announced plans to suspend the programs in the lead-up to a historic inter-Korean summit later this month and a meeting with US President Donald Trump in May.

Read more: North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

What North Korea said:

  • "From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles."
  • "The North will shut down a nuclear tests site in the country's northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests."

Read more: Opinion: A big stage for the 'little rocket man'

'Very good news'

Citing the "completion of nuclear weapons," Kim said: "We no longer need any nuclear test or test launches of intermediate and intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and because of this the northern nuclear test site has finished its mission."

Read more: The North Korea crisis: 10 questions, 10 answers

US President Trump was one of the first to react, saying in a tweet: "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."

South Korea's presidential office described North Korea's announcement as "meaningful progress." But Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera warned against easing pressure on the North Korean regime, saying: "We can't be satisfied."

Diplomatic blitz

In January, North Korea launched a major diplomatic offensive that included sending athletes and officials to the Winter Olympic Games hosted by South Korea. Two months later, South Korean officials announced that the North Korean leader wanted an inter-Korean summit and a face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump.

But analysts have cautioned that Pyongyang's latest moves could be trying "to buy time for its arms buildup, find ways to reduce international pressure and sanctions enforcement, and take advantage of propaganda opportunities to bolster domestic legitimacy."

Positive reactions, some reservations 

In a statement on Thursday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, praised the "positive" decision.

"The announcement ... is a positive, long sought-after step on the path that has now to lead to the country’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, the full respect for its international obligations and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty," Mogherini said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the announcement "a step in the right direction," but called on Pyongyang "to disclose its complete nuclear and missile program in a verifiable way."

"This demand is in accordance with the expectations of the international community," he added.

China welcomed the announcement and reaffirmed its support of Pyongyang. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: "China believes the decision to stop nuclear tests and focus on developing the economy and improving people's living standards will help further ease the situation on the Korean peninsula."

"China will support North Korea ... [to engage in] dialogue and consultation with the relevant parties," he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in Sweden that he was optimistic following Pyongyang's decision, saying it paved the way "for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."  

Nuclear conflict less likely

The world watched last year as Trump and Kim engaged in a war of words that prompted fears the two countries were on the cusp of a nuclear conflict. But tensions have subsided somewhat since Seoul and Pyongyang agreed in December to try to iron out their differences. North Korea's latest position could mark a historic shift on the Korean Peninsula.

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tj,ls,es/ng (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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