SEOUL - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would halt nuclear tests and intercontinental missile launches, in a Saturday announcement welcomed by US President Donald Trump ahead of a much-anticipated summit between the two men.
Pyongyang's declaration, long sought by Washington, will be seen as a crucial step in the fast diplomatic dance on and around the Korean peninsula.
It comes less than a week before the North Korean leader meets South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a summit in the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula, ahead of the eagerly-awaited encounter with Trump himself.
But Kim gave no indication Pyongyang might be willing to give up its nuclear weapons or the missiles with which it can reach the mainland United States.
The North had successfully developed its arsenal, including miniaturising warheads to fit them on to missiles, Kim said, and so "no nuclear test and intermediate-range and inter-continental ballistic rocket test-fire are necessary for the DPRK now".
As such the North's nuclear testing site was no longer needed, he told the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party, according to the official KCNA news agency.
The party decided that nuclear blasts and ICBM launches will cease as of Saturday -- the North has not carried any out since November -- and the atomic test site at Punggye-ri will be dismantled to "transparently guarantee" the end of testing.
Within minutes of the report being issued, Trump tweeted: "This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit."
A message from Kim Jong Un: “North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
Also will “Shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s Northern Side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests.” Progress being made for all!
Seoul too welcomed the announcement, calling it "meaningful progress" towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
But Kim offered no sign he might be willing to give up what he called the North's "treasured sword", saying its possession of nuclear weapons was "the firm guarantee by which our descendants can enjoy the most dignified and happiest life in the world".
Pyongyang has made rapid technological progress in its weapons programmes under Kim, which has seen it subjected to increasingly strict sanctions by the UN Security Council, the United States, the European Union, South Korea and others.