01:35 GMT17 April 2021
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    TOKYO (Sputnik) - Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday praised the move by North Korea to halt nuclear and long-range missile testing.

    "This is a step forward. I welcome it," Abe was cited as saying by the Kyodo news agency after the North announced the decision was effective immediately.

    The prime minister added that the end goal remained a "complete, verifiable and irreversible" dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear, ballistic weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

    Abe said he had agreed in talks with US President Donald Trump they would work together with South Korea on a joint response to any action by North Korea.

    Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera however, lambasted the promise as "meaningless" for Japan unless the North halted its short- and medium-range missiles. "I am not satisfied at all," he was quoted as saying by the Nikkei newspaper.

    Onodera said it was not the time to ease international pressure on North Korea, which he said must give up all nuclear weapons. Japan would keep maximum pressure on the reclusive state until it fully complied, he added.

    Meanwhile, the office of South Korea’s president has praised as meaningful the promise made by the North to halt tests.

    "North Korea's decision is meaningful progress for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which the world wishes for," the statement cited by the Yonhap news agency read.

    North Korea's move will create a "positive environment" at the talks with South Korea and the United States in the coming months, President Moon Jae-in's office said, adding it would take effort to prepare for next week's summit with Kim Jong-un.

    North Korea said it halted nuclear and missile tests to focus on economic growth, according to the state KCNA news agency. It will hold on to its nuclear arsenal to be able to respond to any nuclear threat or provocation, it added.


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    denuclearization, Itsunori Onodera, Kim Jong-un, Shinzo Abe, Donald Trump, South Korea, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Japan
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