by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D., Department of Political Science
Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
March 18 - December 12, 1985: North Korea accepts obligations of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
1989-91: CIA, IAEA suspect DPRK is reprocessing fuel in violation of NPT.
The crisis of 1993-94:
March 1993: Kim Il Sung announces withdrawal of DPRK from NPT. DoS’s Robert Gallucci heads U.S. negotiations with DPRK; DoD prepare military contingencies.
March 1994: DPRK negotiator Yong-Su threatens war.
June 1994: ex-Pres. J. Carter visits at DPRK invitation, creates back channel for communications.
July 1994: Kim Il Sung dies.
October 1994: “Agreed Framework” signed by U.S., DPRK. U.S. will supply safe nuclear reactors and aid; DPRK will freeze nuclear weapons development and accept IAEA inspections.
Key U.S. goals are met: reduce tensions on Korean Peninsula; to keep DPRK in NPT; to stop further development of nuclear weapons by DPRK.
U.S. – DPRK Relations under the “Agreed Framework”
1995: Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization established to fulfill terms of “Agreed Framework.”
December 1995: DPRK announces abandonment of heavy water nuclear power plants; Japan, So Korea to finance 2 light water reactors. U.S., Japan, So Korea agree to provide oil until light water reactors are built. U.S., DPRK exchange “liaison offices;” U.S. trade sanctions are relaxed.
May 1996: U.S. pays $2million to DPRK for “help” in recovering U.S. servicemen’s remains
June 1996: U.S. announces $6.2 million in food aid for DPRK
June 1997: DPRK announces it will join talks on permanent peace with PRC, So. Korea, U.S.
August 1997: famine spreads in DPRK
Sept. 1997: Peace talks break off after DPRK demands a link between food aid and peace
Dec. 1997: Korea rejoins peace talks at Geneva
breakdown of the “Agreed Framework”
August 1998: DPRK test fires missile over Japan.
Dec. 1998: U.S. sends former Defense Secy. Wm. Perry to consult with Asian allies, China.
May 1999: former Defense Secy. Wm. Perry then visits, consults with DPRK. Missile and nuclear proliferation are key topics raised. Subsequent Perry report questions DPRK’s compliance with “Agreed Framework.”
March 1999: DPRK again rejoins formal peace talks, invites U.S. to inspect nuclear facilities; U.S. announces increased food aid
June 1999: So. Korea sinks DPRK torpedo boat in Yellow Sea as tensions rise in fishing dispute; No – So talks in Beijing are suspended (July)
August 1999: So Korean students demonstrate for re-unification.
1999: Annual U.S. Terrorism report cites DPRK ties to Al Qaeda
Dec. 15, 1999: Consortium announces plan to build 2 light water reactors in DPRK. So Korea will pay $3.2B; Japan: $1B; U.S. $115M; EU: $80 M. $200M additional cost is undetermined who will pay.
June 2000: Pres. Kim Jung Il (DPRK) and Pres. Kim Dae Jung meet in Pyongyang, agree on need for reconciliation
July 2000: Secy. Of State Madeline Albright visits DPRK, seeking end of missile exports
Jan. 2001: G.W. Bush Administration is begun in U.S.; Secy. Of State Colin Powell initially speaks of continuation of Clinton’s “engagement policy” under Bush; Armitage suggests possibility of “full normalization of relations” if “Agreed Framework” is adhered to.
March 2001: Bush visits South Korean Pres. Kim Dea Jung, expresses skepticism about DPRK and proliferation.
June 2001: Powell states that U.S. concerns go beyond proliferation to include humanitarian concerns about conditions in the DPRK. U.S. insists on strict adherence to “Agreed Framework”: all weapons must be dismantled before any rewards are given.
Nov. 2001: DoS’s John Bolton accuses DPRK of developing biological weapons.
Jan. 2002: Bush names DPRK part of “axis of evil;” “engagement policy” of the Clinton years is ended.
October 2002: DoS Special Envoy James Kelly visits DPRK; DPRK admits having a nuclear weapons development program (Oct. 16); U.S. withdraws from “Agreed Framework,” weighs military options. Japan opposes this, favoring normalization of relations and return to “Agreed Framework” principles.
follow this link to a map of North Korea's nuclear facilities
August 2003: “Six Party” negotiations (US, China, DPRK, So Korea, Japan, Russia) convened with China chairing. No consensus emerges.
January 2004: Unofficial U.S. delegation visits nuclear facility at Yongbyon, confirming that DPRK has converted spent fuel rods into plutonium.
February 2004: China hosts second round of “Six Party” negotiations. No progress is made: U.S. continues to demand complete and verifiable end to DPRK nuclear weapons program; DPRK demands economic aid and security assurances prior to any dismantling of nuclear weapons and WMD programs.
Early March 2004: DPRK accuses U.S./So.Korea joint military exercises of being preparation for invasion of the North.
March 19, 2004: DPRK threatens to upgrade “quantity and quality” of its nuclear weapons arsenal.
February 10, 2005: North Korea announces it has made nuclear weapons.
April 28, 2005: The Washington Post reported (April 29, 2005: 1, 18) that in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby (who heads the Defense Intelligence Agency) asserted that North Korea possesses the capability to arm long range missiles with nuclear warheads. In earlier testimony, the Senate had been told that the missiles, known as Taepo Dong 2, are capable of reaching parts of the United States if launched from North Korea.
May 2005: On May 20, the Washington Post reported that on instructions from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, U.S. special envoy to the North Korean disarmament talks, and Jim Foster (of the State Department's Office of Korean Affairs) met secretly in New York a week earlier with North Korea's Ambassador to the U.N. Pak Gil Yon and his deputy, Han Song Ryol. U.S. officials insisted that this was not a negotiation, but that "direct contacts" would be possible in the future in the context of six-nation talks. The meeting, which seemed to break from previous U.S. insistence that all talks occur within the context of the six nation negotiating process preferred by the U.S., occurred as South Korea announced that it had agreed to ship to North Korea 200,000 tons of fertilizer and to had agreed to resume bilateral talks with the North at a ministerial level.
Summer 2005: Six party talks in Beijing provided a setting in which apparent progress seemed to have been made. On Sept. 19, North Korea and U.S. negotiator Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill separately confirmed that an agreement had been reached under which North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons program if the U.S. would provide energy (generally understood to be a nuclear reactor) and enter into discussions about these energy matters at an "appropriate time." In exchange, the U.S. agreed to pledge it would not invade North Korea and would respect its sovereignty. Disagreements surfaced within hours over exactly what had been agreed to, with North Korea insisting that no steps would be taken on the nuclear weapons issue until the U.S. provided a nuclear reactor for power generation. Two days later, Russia, Japan, and China joined with the U.S. in rejecting this new demand, urging the North Koreans to stick to the terms of the September 19th agreement. North Korea, however, returned to old habits: on Sept. 21, it accused the U.S. of seeking to "crush us to death with nuclear weapons."
July 2006: North Korea tested long range missiles: Taepodong-2 test failed. Test is widely condemned by neighboring states.
October 2006: North Korea tests a nuclear bomb, but the test was not fully successful. In response, the United Nations Security Council imposes new sanctions on North Korea.
February 13, 2007: Six party talks resume at Beijing, and produce what then is seens as a breakthrough. In exchange for $300 million in aid and steps toward full diplomatic relations with the United States, North Korea agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Direct bilateral negotiations between the US and the North Koreans commence on March 5.
April 2007: North Korea launches a test rocket over Japan, igniting worldwide criticism. As U.N. Security Council begins debate on the matter, North Korea walks out of "6 Party" talks on dismantling its nuclear program.
January 2008: U.S. states that North Korea failed to fulfill its commitments made in the 2007 nuclear agreement.
June 2008: North Korea makes its declaration on nuclear programs called for under the 2007 agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Rice visits Pyongyang and conducts formal negotiations for first time in years.
October 2008: U.S. drops North Korea from list of states that sponsor terrorism, fulfilling part of the 2007 U.S. agreement with North Korea.
July 2009: North Korea launches a series of missile tests in the Sea of Japan, again igniting worldwide criticism.
May 26, 2009: Explosion of a nuclear device substantially stronger than the October 2006 test was detected by Western intelligence services and was announced by the North Korean Government. U.N. Security Council condemns, again without meaningful sanctions being imposed for this violation of previous agreements.
March 26, 2010: North Korea sinks South Korean destroyer the ROKS Cheonan in disputed waters near the two countries' border.
Nov. 23, 2012: North Korean artillery shell Big Yeonpyeong Island in the Red Sea, off the coast of South Korea; 2 civilians and 2 South Korean military personnel were killed. About 70 civilian homes also were destroyed in this action.
Dec. 29, 2011: Kim Jong Eun ascends to position of top leader of North Korea after his father, Kim Jong-il, died on Dec. 17.
Feb. 29, 2012: U.S. agrees to provide food aid to North Korea in exchange for North Korea's promise to not test nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.
April 2012: North Korea readies launch platform for missile test; U.S. suspends food aid.
other sources on these issues:
Prof. Bowen's bibliography about North Korea Nuclear Issues
Washington Post timeline
- William Wan and Chico Harlan, "White House defends its North Korea Strategy," Washington Post (April 10, 2012).
Link to Additional Sources
return to Professor Bowen's main page