North Korea is suspending its nuclear and missile tests, but don’t get too excited

Remember the playbook, son.
Remember the playbook, son.
Image: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he will suspend nuclear and missile tests beginning this weekend, and shut down the site where previous nuclear tests were conducted.

He said he was satisfied with the progress North Korea made last year, developing a large nuclear warhead and missile capable of carrying it to the United States.

Kim told the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, convened on Friday, the country has “verified the completion of nuclear weapons.” The official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying, “We no longer need any nuclear test or test launches of intermediate and intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and because of this the northern nuclear test site has finished its mission.”

The announcement comes ahead of Kim’s summit with South Korean president Moon Jae-in—with whom he opened a hotline yesterday—on April 27. He’ll also hold a summit with US president Donald Trump in May or June, though that’s less concrete, with neither a date or location decided upon.

Trump tweeted after Kim’s announcement: “North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”

Of course, allowing hope to build could help Kim in upcoming negotiations. Trump has said he’ll walk away from a summit if it isn’t fruitful, but he’s already touting the “very good news.”

More to the point, Kim did not say he was giving up his nuclear weapons—he’s only freezing the program, which he could always restart. The testing site might be closed, but it can always be reopened. As such, the announcement isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. North Korea has suspended its nuclear activities before, for example in 2007, generating excitement and winning aid, only to start them up again.

We may indeed be about to see some historic changes. “A fresh climate of détente and peace is being created on the Korean peninsula and the region and dramatic changes are being made in the international political landscape,” Kim told the party, according to the KCNA report.

But so far, Kim is simply following the playbook.