North Korea suspends missile, nuclear tests

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Seoul, April 21 (IANS) North Korea on Saturday announced its suspension of all missile tests and shutting down of nuclear test site, saying its quest for nuclear arms was “complete” and it “no longer needed” to test its weapons capability.

“Under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests, mid-range and intercontinental ballistic rocket tests, and that the nuclear test site in northern area has also completed its mission,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying by the state-run KCNA news agency.

North Korea conducted all of its six nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri test site in the northeastern province since 2006. Its latest and most powerful nuclear test was conducted in September, Yonhap news agency reported.

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The surprise announcement came as North Korea prepares for historic talks with South Korea and the US. It also came just weeks after Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping on his first official trip outside his country.

Kim is due to meet his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on April 27 for the first inter-Korean summit in over a decade, and US President Donald Trump by June.

Both countries have been pushing Pyongyang to denuclearise and reacted positively to the latest development, calling it a “sign of progress” and a “promising start” to upcoming talks.

“This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit,” Trump tweeted after the announcement.

A spokesperson for the South Korean President called the North’s move “meaningful progress”. “It will also contribute to creating a very positive environment for the success of the upcoming South-North summit and North-US summit,” a statement from Moon’s office said.

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The declaration came as Pyongyang continued to make concessions ahead of the talks. In March, Kim told a South Korean delegation that he “understood” the need for joint US-South Korean military drills.

Earlier this week he dropped his requirement that US troops leave the Korean peninsula as a precondition for denuclearisation.

China welcomed North Korea’s decision. “The decision made by North Korea will help ease the situation and promote the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula as well as a political settlement of the peninsula issue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe too hailed the announcement, while stressing that it was important to monitor the situation to see if it would lead to “a complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of nuclear arms, weapons of mass destruction and missiles,” state broadcaster NHK reported.

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–IANS

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