South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted North Korean state media as saying on Saturday “From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
“The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear test,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said, according to Yonhap.
US President Donald Trump hailed the development in a tweet on Friday, saying, “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.”
The news comes amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts by North Korea to improve ties with its neighbors, chiefly South Korea.
On Friday, Seoul and Pyongyang established a hotline just one week before a planned landmark meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone.
The South Korean president said on Thursday it was time for the two countries to sign a peace treaty.
A possible meeting between Kim and Trump is also being planned to be held in late May or early June.
On Wednesday, Trump admitted that CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret visit to Pyongyang over the Easter weekend and held talks with Kim Jong-un.
In late March, Kim made a landmark visit to China to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was Kim’s first foreign travel since rising to power in 2011.
The diplomatic initiatives are part of efforts to reduce tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear and weapons program, which began after Pyongyang sent a delegation of its athletes to South Korea for the Winter Olympics earlier this year. It then allowed representatives from South Korea to travel to the North and plan a summit between the leaders of the two countries. It was then that North Korea’s leader announced the intention to hold talks with the US president.
Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations. The US has imposed many rounds of sanctions on North Korea, has substantial military presence near the country, and numerously threatened to invade it.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula were running high in 2017. Trump’s threats last year prompted North Korea to carry out its most powerful nuclear test to date and launch intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States
But Kim expressed sudden interest in the resolution of disagreements with the South on New Year’s Day, and a series of overtures began.