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North Korean Leader Says Will Suspend Nuclear, Missile Tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to freeze nuclear and missile tests (file photo).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his country will freeze tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and close down a nuclear test site, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports.

"From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles," Yonhap quoted North Korean state media as saying.

"The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country's northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear test," the official KCNA news agency said, according to Yonhap.

KCNA also said North Korea will join international efforts to halt nuclear tests entirely.

"As the weaponization 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," Kim told a ruling party meeting, KCNA reported.

"The northern nuclear test site has completed its mission," he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump reacted to Pyongyang’s announcement with a Twitter posting calling it “big progress!” and saying it was "very good news for North Korea and the world."

The announced action comes less than a week before Kim meets South Korean leader Moon Jae-in for a summit in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two rival countries and ahead of an anticipated meeting in the near future between Kim and Trump.

Tensions have risen between Pyongyang and the United States, South Korea, Japan, and other countries over North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

In 2017, North Korea carried out tests of ballistic missiles, saying it had gained the ability to hit the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons, although that was not confirmed by Western experts.

The U.S., European Union, the UN Security Council, and others have imposed crippling financial sanctions against North Korea.

Pyongyang had recently made conciliatory remarks toward the global community, raising hopes of a settlement to the crisis.

With reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, and Yonhap