"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.
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 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.