Pyongyang, this weekend, said it suspended nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches ahead of summits with Seoul and Washington. But that in no way means the reclusive regime will curtail or halt its existing programs, strategists told CNBC.
Nuclear prowess is a crucial component of North Korea's identity. Not only does ruler Kim Jong Un govern the nation on a policy known as byungjin — the parallel pursuit of nuclear weapons development and economic growth — but the pariah state has even built monuments at nuclear test sites to memorialize past ICBM tests.
The country's weekend statement, as reported by the state-run Korean Central News Agency following a plenary session of the ruling Worker's Party's top officials, also indicated the looming closure of a main nuclear test site.
But halting tests and missile launches as well as dismantling sites do not reflect a commitment to roll back current nuclear capacities and hardware, warned Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, a Beijing-based policy think tank.
When North Korea said it will refrain from acts prohibited under multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, that doesn't mean it will give up the nuclear capability it's already attained, echoed Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korean studies professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School.
If the pariah state stalls nuclear development at present levels, "that, in itself, is a bit of progress," said Robert Kelly, associate professor at Pusan National University. But like others, he said he doesn't think Kim will budge on existing programs: "It would be remarkable if they spent 40 years developing these weapons and then give them away."
The news prompted President Donald Trump, who is expected to meet Kim in May or June, to declare on Twitter that North Korea had agreed to "denuclearization" even though KCNA's statement did not use that term or express that sentiment.