The ongoing nuclear-arms negotiations between the United States and North Korea


The relationship between the United States and North Korea regarding nuclear capabilities has often been tumultuous. The recent meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February was another milestone in a long and complex history of negotiations, accusations and sanctions between the two nations.

1980’s

December 1985: North Korea signs the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). However, North Korea fails to meet the agreement required with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) within the required 18-moth period.

1990’s

July 1991: President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign the  U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START1). The agreement, which limits the deployment of nuclear arms abroad- sees the U.S. withdraw around 100 nuclear weapons from South Korea.

November 1991: Following this, President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea announces the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under this deceleration, South Korea promises not to produce, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.

January 1992: Ongoing negotiations between the two Korean nations see the signing of the  South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

March 1993: Following IAEA requests to inspect nuclear sites, North Korea announce their intention to withdraw from the NPT in 3 months. However, after talks with the U.S. at the United Nations they decide to remain a member of the treaty.

June 1994: Jimmy Carter becomes the first former U.S. President to visit North Korea, continuing ongoing diplomatic talks.

July 1994: Kim Il-sung dies and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il.

October 1994: North Korea and the U.S. sign the Agreed Framework. North Korea agrees to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors in exchange for international aid to build two light-water nuclear reactors and normalisation of relations with the U.S. Of the deal, President Clinton said “South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.”

March 1995: The U.S., Japan, and South Korea are the founding members of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an organisation created to facilitate the agreements made in the Agreed Framework.

August 1998: North Korea fires a multistage rocket that is capable of flying over Japan to the Pacific Ocean. This is well beyond North Korea’s then known capability.

2000’s

January 2002: During his state of the union address, President George W. Bush labels North Korea, Iran and Iraq an “axis of evil” for their ongoing construction of “weapons of mass destruction.”

October 2002: The American government announces that North Korea admitted to having a secret Uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons during a visit by White House official James Kelly.

December 2002: North Korea notifies the IAEA that they are restarting their one functional reactor. 

January 2003: North Korea announces it has withdrawn from the NPT.

May 2003: North Korea withdraws from the 1992 South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

August 2003: South and North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States begin the six party talks. 

February 2005: North Korea admits publicly for the first time that it has produced nuclear weapons for what it describes a “self defence.”

July 2006: North Korea test fires seven ballistic missiles. The U.S. State Department declare this a “provocative act” and is condemned by the UN.

October 2006: North Korea completes its first nuclear test at an underground facility near the town of P’unggye.

February 2007: Following six-party talksNorth Korea agrees to a 60-day initial phase of ceasing operations at its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in return for an initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil.

September 2007: At six-party talks, North Korea signs a statement agreeing to disable its nuclear weapons facilities. 

December 2007: North Korea misses its deadline to disable its weapon facilities.

June 2008: In his final use of national emergency powers as President, George W. Bush continues sanctions in response to the perceived threat to the US of the North Korean nuclear program.

October 2008: The US removes North Korea from its terrorism blacklist.

May 2009: North Korea completes its second nuclear test.

August 2009: Former President Bill Clinton visits North Korea to negotiate the release of U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. The two journalists were reportedly arrested on the China-North Korea border and had initially been sentenced to 12 years hard labour. 

2010’s

December 2011: Kim Jong-il dies, with his youngest son Kim Jong-un being the “great successor” and becoming leader of North Korea.

January 2013: North Korea’s National Defense Commission announces it will continue nuclear arms and long-range missile testing in defiance of the U.S.

February 2013: North Korea conducts its third nuclear test.

January 2016: North Korea claims that it has conducted its first hydrogen bomb test.

June 2017: North Korea release American student Otto Warmbier, who dies several days after returning to the U.S. 22 year old Warmbier had been held captive for 17 months, and had been comatose for over a year prior to his death. The University student was reportedly arrested for attempting to take an object emblazoned with a propaganda slogan from his hotel room.

July 2017: North Korea claims it has successful tested an intercontinental ballistic missile.

November 2017: President Trump announces that he will return North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

January 2018: In a new years address, Kim Jong-un says that his nations “nuclear forces are capable of thwarting and countering any nuclear threats from the United States…In no way would the United States dare to ignite a war against me and our country.”

April 2018: Trump announces he will meet Kim Jong-un, stating “hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea.”

May 2018: Donald Trump cancels planned meeting in June with the North Korean leader, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent North Korean statements.

June 2018: After a meeting with a North Korean official in Washington the U.S. President reinstates his meeting with Kim, for the initial scheduled date.

June 2018: Trump and Kim meet in Singapore, the first time a sitting President and the ruler of North Korea have met in person. The meeting results in the two leaders signing a joint declaration in which North Korea promises to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and the U.S. pledges to provide security guarantees for Pyongyang.

October 2018: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.

February 2019: The leaders of the United States and North Korea meet in Vietnam. This is the second in-person meeting between the two leaders.

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