VOA News

North Korea says it has suspended nuclear tests and plans to close its nuclear test site.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the military is also suspending long-range missile tests and said the suspensions went into effect on Saturday.

The announcement said the government is making the moves to shift its national focus and to improve the economy.

The development comes less than a week before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a summit to try to end the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula. The United States and North Korea are planning a separate summit, although no date has been set.

Following the announcement, President Trump tweeted he is looking forward to the summit.

On Friday, the two Koreas opened a hotline between their leaders, ahead of the planned summit in the Demilitarized Zone on April 27. The hotline is the latest step in an intense diplomatic activity on and around the Korean peninsula, initiated with the Winter Olympics in the South.

Also Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, at the Pentagon for talks that included North Korea. Mattis said the possible talks between the United States and North Korea will not change the strong relationship the United Stateshas with Japan.

“This is a mutually beneficial alliance between two democratic nations that trust each other. Nothing is going to shake that.”

Onodera said the “iron clad US-Japan alliance” must work with the international community to make North Korea abandon all weapons of mass destruction “in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.”

South Korea’s president said Thursday that North Korea is not imposing conditions on upcoming summits with him and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Moon told corporate executives in Seoul, “They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea.”He said, “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

Moon said, “I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea. The North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization.”

North Korea has defended its nuclear development and missile tests, in defiance of the U.N. Security Council mandates, as a deterrent to what it sees as a threat from the United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea. But it has not launched a missile test since late November, or conducted a nuclear test since last September.

Trump struck an optimistic note earlier this week about the possibility of a denuclearized North Korea.

“As I’ve said before, there is a bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way,” Trump said.

But he cautioned that if his talks with Kim did not go the way he hopes, he was willing to walk away.

VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.