Tuesday 16 October 2018

Kim suspends nuclear and missile testing

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has suspended nuclear testing and dropped his demand for US troops to leave South Korea as he prepares for a summit with President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has suspended nuclear testing and dropped his demand for US troops to leave South Korea as he prepares for a summit with President Donald Trump. Photo: AP

Nicola Smith

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has announced Pyongyang will carry out no more nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests and will shut down its atomic test site, the North's state media reported last night.

The declaration, long sought by the US, will be seen as a crucial step ahead of key leaders' summits in the coming weeks.

It comes less than a week before Mr Kim meets South Korean leader Moon Jae-in for a summit in the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula, and ahead of a much-anticipated encounter with US President Donald Trump.

"As the weaponisation of nuclear weapons has been verified, it is not necessary for us to conduct any more nuclear tests or test launches of mid- and long range missiles or ICBMs," Mr Kim told a ruling party meeting.

"The northern nuclear test site has completed its mission," he added at the gathering of the central committee of the Workers' Party, according to the official KCNA news agency.

In a tweet late last night, US President Donald Trump said: "This is very good news for North Korea and the world - 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.

Pyongyang has made rapid technological progress in its weapons programmes under Mr Kim, which has seen it subjected to increasingly strict sanctions by the UN Security Council, US, EU, South Korea and others.

Last year it carried out its sixth and by far its most powerful nuclear test, launching missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

Analysts said yesterday's announcement was significant but noted that the regime was not ruling out future tests.

The news came after Kim Jong-un reportedly dropped demands that US troops must leave the Korean Peninsula in return for giving up his nuclear weapons, potentially removing one of the biggest obstacles to a peace deal.

The US has about 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, which has long been a thorny issue with the North Koreans.

However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who meets Mr Kim at a summit on Friday, said the reclusive leader was now willing to give up the troops' removal as a precondition for denuclearisation.

"The North Koreans did not present any conditions that the Un ited States could not accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops in South Korea," Mr Moon said.

"They only talk about an end to hostilities against their country and about getting security guarantees," he said.

"It's safe to say that the plans for dialogue between the North and the United States could proceed because that has been made clear."

It emerged this week that US President Donald Trump had sent CIA director Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang over Easter to assess how genuine North Korea was in its recent overtures towards peace, and to lay the groundwork for a planned summit.

Irish Independent

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