Six days before a historic meeting between himself and his counterpart to the south, North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un vowed on Friday to self-impose a moratorium on all atomic weapons testing, and to shutter the site of six previous nuclear detonations.
“From April 21st… the nuclear test and the intercontinental ballistic rocket test will be discontinued,” North Korean state news agency KCNA quoted Kim as saying. “North Korea’s nuclear test center will be discarded in order to ensure the transparency of the suspension of the nuclear test.”
The announcement of the freeze comes less than a week ahead of a meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and roughly one month before Kim is set to meet President Donald Trump to discuss its nuclear weapons program.
Although Kim also vowed to “never use nuclear weapons unless there is a nuclear threat or nuclear provocation to our country”—a reiteration of similar commitments made in 2013—the statement fell short of suggesting that denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula is on the table during Kim’s summit with Trump. Kim also described the shutdown of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site as resulting from satisfaction with North Korea’s efforts to miniaturize and lighten its nuclear arsenal.
North Korea has made and broken similar promises in the past, most notoriously the s0-called Leap Day Deal of 2012, which stipulated a moratorium on North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests. Sixteen days after the agreement was made, Kim announced plans to send a satellite into orbit, killing the agreement in the crib.
President Trump, for his part, cheered the unilateral cessation of nuclear tests:
Kim’s moratorium is the latest overture in a North Korean charm offensive that began in March with the extension of a surprise invitation for Trump to meet with the leader of the ruling Kim dynasty. The invitation followed the implementation of heavy sanctions against the North Korean regime, put into place in the hopes of persuading Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post revealed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee to head the State Department, had met with Kim in secret as “part of an effort to lay the groundwork” for the summit.