North Korea has announced a freeze on all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile testing starting April 21, according to the country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. North Korea will also shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s north in order to “prove the vow to suspend nuclear test,” KCNA reports.
The announcement comes just weeks ahead of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and just days before Kim is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The decision was made public after the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea met to discuss “a new stage” in a “historic” period, the Washington Post reports.
North Korea’s announcement is a big deal — that is, if North Korea keeps its promise, which it hasn’t always done in the past. But there are also a few caveats.
Nuclear expert Ankit Panda wrote on Twitter that North Korea shutting down its nuclear testing site may have less to do with the spirit of diplomacy, and more to do with the fact that North Korea is “satisfied” with its nuclear capabilities and “may not need to conduct further nuclear testing.”
Here's KCNA with six points from Kim Jong-un. The Punggye-ri test site will close *because* North Korea feels it has conducted sufficient testing and is happy with its weapons. That's important context here. pic.twitter.com/uRlu30LG2O— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) April 20, 2018
In a six-point statement from Kim himself and reported by KCNA, the North Korean leader said the country “will never use nuclear weapons unless there is nuclear threat or nuclear provocation” toward the country and “will not transfer weapons or nuclear technology.”
Vipin Narang, an MIT political science professor, explained on Twitter that the latter point is especially important to any future talks about Pyongyang potentially giving up its current weapons program.
Point 4 is important: pledging not to transfer nuclear weapons or technology. One, because that’s a big concern in Washington. But also two, implies they will keep them...but simply not transfer them. https://t.co/q25r7wbPYy— Vipin Narang (@NarangVipin) April 20, 2018
North Korea’s announcement is certainly a positive sign ahead of a possible sit-down between Kim and President Donald Trump. Shortly after North Korea’s announcement Friday, Trump tweeted: “This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”
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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
South Korea’s government also welcomed the North Korea news, calling it a “meaningful step forward” that will foster a “positive environment” for the upcoming summits.