'Mission complete': Kim Jong-un halts any further nuclear & missile tests, shuts down testing site
"From April 21, 2018, nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile tests will be discontinued," the Korean Central News Agency cited Kim as saying at a plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Worker's Party of Korea (WPK).
Furthermore, since North Korea's nuclear test center has "completed" its mission, it "will be discarded in order to ensure the transparency of the nuclear test suspension," KCNA reported.
Announcing the new course, the ruling party has declared that North Korea "will never use nuclear weapons, unless there is nuclear threat or nuclear provocation to our country, and in no case we will proliferate nuclear weapons and nuclear technology."
In the announcement, North Korea noted that the "suspension of nuclear testing is an important process for global nuclear disarmament." Therefore, North Korea is willing to join international denuclearization efforts.
North Korea's last major missile test took place on November 29. Pyongyang announced at the time that it had tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile known as the Hwasong-15 that could reach the entire continental United States.
US President Donald Trump, who has traded insults and threats with Kim since taking office, tweeted that the latest decision by Pyongyang is "good news for North Korea and the world," calling it "big progress."
China has also hailed the move, expressing hope that Pyongyang will continue towards the path of denuclearization and "political settlement" on the Korean Peninsula. "Denuclearization of the peninsula and lasting peace in the region are in line with the common interests of the people of the peninsula," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
South Korea also praised the decision. The president's office called it "meaningful progress for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which the world waits for."
The European Union's foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, also called North Korea's announcement a step in the right direction. She called the move "a positive, long sought-after step on the path that has now to lead the country's complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization."
Japan, however, was less excited about the announcement. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that while he wants to "welcome these positive moves," he wondered "if this will lead to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal, weapons of mass destruction, and missiles."
The extraordinary development comes just ahead of Kim's meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in later this month. The announcement also follows US Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo's recent secret meeting with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.
Trump is also preparing to meet Kim in the coming weeks. He has stressed on a number of occasions that Washington would keep up its "maximum pressure" campaign on North Korea until it agrees to denuclearize.
"Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue until North Korea will denuclearize," Trump said on Wednesday. "As I have said before, there is a bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way. It will be a great day for them, it will be a great day for the world."
Meanwhile, the director of the anti-war Answer Coalition, Brian Becker, told RT that Kim's announcement to halt the missile tests was a "big step" because it "is removing all of the obstacles, the impediments, that would stop a possible, real, major development on the Korean Peninsula, bringing the Korean War to an end finally, all these decades later." He added that Pyongyang "wants a peace treaty and it wants to be able to trade and it wants to be economically integrated into the world economy."