SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Saturday it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the country is making the move to shift its national focus and improve its economy.
The North also vowed to actively engage with regional neighbors and the international community to secure peace in the Korean Peninsula and create an “optimal international environment” to build its economy.
The announcements came days before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a border truce village for a rare summit aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang.
A separate meeting between Kim and President Trump is anticipated in May or June.
As CBS News’ “Face the Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan reports, North Korea had already paused its nuclear testing ahead of a planned meeting with Mr. Trump this spring. While the suspension could be a diplomatic gesture, Brennan warns that it could be because North Korea has already completed weaponizing its nuclear arms.
Mr. Trump tweeted calling the reports “big progress!”
The North’s decisions were made in a meeting of the ruling party’s full Central Committee which had convened to discuss a “new stage” of policies.
The Korean Workers’ Party’s Central Committee declared it a “great victory” in the country’s official “byungjin” policy line of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development.
The committee unanimously adopted a resolution that called for concentrating national efforts to achieve a strong socialist economy and “groundbreaking improvements in people’s lives.”
“To secure transparency on the suspension of nuclear tests, we will close the republic’s northern nuclear test site,” the party’s resolution said.
The agency quoted Kim as saying during the meeting: “Nuclear development has proceeded scientifically and in due order and the development of the delivery strike means also proceeded scientifically and verified the completion of nuclear weapons.
“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.”
North Korea’s abrupt diplomatic outreach in recent months came after a flurry of weapons tests, including the underground detonation of a possible thermonuclear warhead and three launches of developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to strike the U.S. mainland.
Some analysts see Kim as entering the upcoming negotiations from a position of strength after having declared his nuclear force as complete in November. South Korean and U.S. officials have said Kim is likely trying to save his broken economy from heavy sanctions,
Seoul said Kim has expressed genuine interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons. But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of “denuclearization” that bears no resemblance to the American definition, vowing to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its troops from the peninsula.
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