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former IAEA Director-General

North Korea

Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy

September 2018

 

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: September 2018

For years, the United States and the international community have tried to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology. Those efforts have been replete with periods of crisis, stalemate, and tentative progress towards denuclearization, and North Korea has long been a key challenge for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The United States has pursued a variety of policy responses to the proliferation challenges posed by North Korea, including military cooperation with U.S. allies in the region, wide-ranging sanctions, and non-proliferation mechanisms such as export controls. The United States also engaged in two major diplomatic initiatives to have North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons efforts in return for aid.

In 1994, faced with North Korea’s announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid.

Following the collapse of this agreement in 2002, North Korea claimed that it had withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 and once again began operating its nuclear facilities.

The second major diplomatic effort were the Six-Party Talks initiated in August of 2003 which involved China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement.

Those talks, however, broke down in 2009 following disagreements over verification and an internationally condemned North Korea rocket launch. Pyongyang has since stated that it would never return to the talks and is no longer bound by their agreements. The other five parties state that they remain committed to the talks, and have called for Pyongyang to recommit to its 2005 denuclearization pledge.

In January 2018, another diplomatic effort began when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the country's nuclear arsenal "complete" and offered to discuss with Seoul North Korea's participation in the South Korean Olympics. North Korea's delegation to the Olympics included Kim Jong Un's sister, who met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. That meeting led to a sustained inter-Korean dialouge, including a meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in April 27 that produced a declaration referencing the shared goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

During a high-level meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang in March, Kim Jong Un conveyed his interest in meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump accepted the offer and the two leaders will meet June 12 in Singapore. 

The following chronology summarizes in greater detail developments in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and the efforts to end them, since 1985.


Skip to: 1985, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

1985

December 12, 1985: North Korea accedes to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) but does not complete a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under Article III of the NPT, North Korea has 18 months to conclude such an arrangement. In coming years, North Korea links adherence to this provision of the treaty to the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from South Korea.

1991

September 27, 1991: President George Bush announces the unilateral withdrawal of all naval and land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad. Approximately 100 U.S. nuclear weapons had been based in South Korea. Eight days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocates.

November 8, 1991: In response to President Bush’s unilateral move, President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea announces the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, under which South Korea promises not to produce, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons. In addition, the declaration unilaterally prohibits South Korea from possessing nuclear reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities. These promises, if enacted, would satisfy all of North Korea’s conditions for allowing IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.

1992

January 20, 1992: The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under the declaration, both countries agree not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” They also agree to mutual inspections for verification.

January 30, 1992: More than six years after signing the NPT, North Korea concludes a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

March 6, 1992: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea’s Lyongaksan Machineries and Equipment Export Corporation and Changgwang Sinyong Corporation for missile proliferation activities.*

April 9, 1992: North Korea ratifies the safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

May 4, 1992: North Korea submits its nuclear material declarations to the IAEA, declaring seven sites and some 90 grams of plutonium that could be subject to IAEA inspection. Pyongyang claims that the nuclear material was the result of reprocessing 89 defective fuel rods in 1989. The IAEA conducted inspections to verify the completeness of this declaration from mid-1992 to early 1993.

June 23, 1992: The United States imposes “missile sanctions” on the North Korean entities sanctioned in March.*

September 1992: IAEA inspectors discover discrepancies in North Korea’s “initial report” on its nuclear program and ask for clarification on several issues, including the amount of reprocessed plutonium in North Korea.

1993

February 9, 1993: The IAEA demands special inspections of two sites that are believed to store nuclear waste. The request is based on strong evidence that North Korea has been cheating on its commitments under the NPT. North Korea refuses the IAEA’s request.

March 12, 1993: Amid demands for special inspections, North Korea announces its intention to withdraw from the NPT in three months, citing Article X provisions that allow withdrawal for supreme national security considerations.

April 1, 1993: The IAEA declares that North Korea is not adhering to its safeguards agreement and that it cannot guarantee that North Korean nuclear material is not being diverted for nonpeaceful uses.

June 11, 1993: Following talks with the United States in New York, North Korea suspends its decision to pull out of the NPT just before the withdrawal would have become legally effective. North Korea also agrees to the full and impartial application of IAEA safeguards.

For its part, the United States grants assurances against the threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons. Washington also promises not to interfere with North Korea’s internal affairs.

July 19, 1993: After a second round of talks with the United States, North Korea announces in a joint statement that it is “prepared to begin consultations with the IAEA on outstanding safeguards and other issues” and that it is ready to negotiate IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities. The joint statement also indicates that Pyongyang might consider a deal with the United States to replace its graphite nuclear reactors with light-water reactors (LWRs), which are proliferation resistant.

Late 1993: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea had separated about 12 kilograms of plutonium. This amount is enough for at least one or two nuclear weapons.

1994

January 1994: The director of the CIA estimates that North Korea may have produced one or two nuclear weapons.

February 15, 1994: North Korea finalizes an agreement with the IAEA to allow inspections of all seven of its declared nuclear facilities, averting sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

March 1, 1994: IAEA inspectors arrive in North Korea for the first inspections since 1993.

March 21, 1994: Responding to North Korea’s refusal to allow the inspection team to inspect a plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon, the IAEA Board of Governors approves a resolution calling on North Korea to “immediately allow the IAEA to complete all requested inspection activities and to comply fully with its safeguards agreements.”

May 19, 1994: The IAEA confirms that North Korea has begun removing spent fuel from its 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor even though international monitors were not present. The United States and the IAEA had insisted that inspectors be present for any such action because spent fuel can potentially be reprocessed for use in nuclear weapons.

June 13, 1994: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the IAEA. This is distinct from pulling out of the NPT—North Korea is still required to undergo IAEA inspections as part of its NPT obligations. The IAEA contends that North Korea’s safeguards agreement remains in force. However, North Korea no longer participates in IAEA functions as a member state.

June 15, 1994: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiates a deal with North Korea in which Pyongyang confirms its willingness to “freeze” its nuclear weapons program and resume high-level talks with the United States. Bilateral talks are expected to begin, provided that North Korea allows the IAEA safeguards to remain in place, does not refuel its 5-megawatt nuclear reactor, and does not reprocess any spent nuclear fuel.

July 9, 1994: North Korean President Kim Il Sung dies and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il.

August 12, 1994: An “agreed statement” is signed that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant LWRs to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors.

October 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the “Agreed Framework” in Geneva. To resolve U.S. concerns about Pyongyang’s plutonium-producing reactors and the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, the agreement calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors, two of which are still under construction. North Korea also allows the IAEA to verify compliance through “special inspections,” and it agrees to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country.

In exchange, Pyongyang will receive two LWRs and annual shipments of heavy fuel oil during construction of the reactors. The LWRs will be financed and constructed through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a multinational consortium.

Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang’s development and export of ballistic missiles, as well as other issues of bilateral concern.

November 28, 1994: The IAEA announces that it had confirmed that construction has been halted at North Korea’s Nyongbyon and Taochon nuclear facilities and that these facilities are not operational.

1995

March 9, 1995:KEDO is formed in New York with the United States, South Korea, and Japan as the organization’s original members.

1996

January 1996: North Korea agrees in principle to a meeting on missile proliferation issues, which had been requested in a letter by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Hubbard. However, Pyongyang contends that the United States would have to ease economic sanctions before it could agree on a date and venue for the talks.

In testimony before a House International Relations subcommittee on March 19, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord says that Washington is willing to ease economic sanctions if progress is made on the missile export issue.

April 21-22, 1996: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for their first round of bilateral missile talks. The United States reportedly suggests that North Korea should adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary international agreement aimed at controlling sales of ballistic missile systems, components, and technology. North Korea allegedly demands that the United States provide compensation for lost missile-related revenue.

May 24, 1996: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Iran for missile technology-related transfers. The sanctions prohibit any imports or exports to sanctioned firms and to those sectors of the North Korean economy that are considered missile-related. The pre-existing general ban on trade with both countries makes the sanctions largely symbolic.*

October 16, 1996: After detecting North Korean preparations for a test of its medium-range Nodong missile, the United States deploys a reconnaissance ship and aircraft to Japan. Following several meetings in New York between U.S. and North Korean diplomats, the State Department confirms on November 8 that the missile test has been canceled.

1997

June 11-13, 1997: The second round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks takes place in New York, with U.S. negotiators pressing North Korea not to deploy the Nodong missile and to end sales of Scud missiles and their components. The parties reach no agreement but reportedly lay the foundation for future talks.

August 6, 1997: The United States imposes new sanctions on two additional North Korean entities for unspecified missile-proliferation activities.*

1998

February 25, 1998: At his inaugural speech, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung announces his “sunshine policy,” which strives to improve inter-Korean relations through peace, reconciliation, and cooperation.

April 17, 1998: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Pakistan in response to Pyongyang’s transfer of missile technology and components to Pakistan’s Khan Research Laboratory.*

June 16, 1998: The official Korean Central News Agency reports that Pyongyang will only end its missile technology exports if it is suitably compensated for financial losses.

July 15, 1998: The bipartisan Rumsfeld Commission concludes that the United States may have “little or no warning” before facing a long-range ballistic missile threat from “rogue states,” such as North Korea and Iran.

August 31, 1998: North Korea launches a three-stage Taepo Dong-1 rocket with a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers that flies over Japan. Pyongyang announces that the rocket successfully placed a small satellite into orbit, a claim contested by U.S. Space Command. Japan suspends signature of a cost-sharing agreement for the Agreed Framework’s LWR project until November 1998. The U.S. intelligence community admits to being surprised by North Korea’s advances in missile-staging technology and its use of a solid-rocket motor for the missile’s third stage.

October 1, 1998: The third round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks begins in New York but makes little progress. The United States repeats its request for Pyongyang to terminate its missile programs in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. North Korea rejects the U.S. proposal on the grounds that the lifting of sanctions is implicit in the 1994 Agreed Framework.

November 12, 1998: President Bill Clinton appoints former Secretary of Defense William Perry to serve as North Korea policy coordinator—a post established by the 1999 Defense Authorization Act. Perry immediately undertakes an interagency review of U.S. policy toward North Korea and begins consultations with South Korea and Japan aimed at forming a unified approach to dealing with Pyongyang.

December 4-11, 1998: The United States and North Korea hold talks to address U.S. concerns about a suspected underground nuclear facility at Kumchang-ni. Pyongyang reportedly accepts in principle the idea of a U.S. inspection of the site but is unable to agree with U.S. proposals for “appropriate compensation.”

1999

February 2, 1999: CIA Director George Tenet testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, with some technical improvements, North Korea would be able to use the Taepo Dong-1 to deliver small payloads to parts of Alaska and Hawaii. Tenet also says that Pyongyang’s Taepo Dong-2, if it had a third stage like the Taepo Dong-1, would be able to deliver large payloads to the continental United States, albeit with poor accuracy.

March 29-31, 1999: U.S. and North Korean officials hold a fourth round of missile talks in Pyongyang. The United States again expresses concern over North Korea’s missile development and proliferation activities and proposes a deal exchanging North Korean restraint for U.S. sanctions relief. U.S. officials describe the talks as “serious and intensive” but succeed only in reaching agreement to meet again at an unspecified date.

April 25, 1999: The United States, South Korea, and Japan establish the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group to institutionalize close consultation and policy coordination in dealing with North Korea.

May 20-24, 1999: A U.S. inspection team visits the North Korean suspected nuclear site in Kumchang-ni. According to the State Department, the team finds no evidence of nuclear activity or violation of the Agreed Framework.

May 25-28, 1999: Traveling to Pyongyang as a presidential envoy, Perry meets with senior North Korean political, diplomatic, and military officials to discuss a major expansion in bilateral relations if Pyongyang is willing to address U.S. security concerns. Perry delivers a letter from President Clinton to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, but the two do not meet. Perry reportedly calls on North Korea to satisfy U.S. concerns about ongoing nuclear weapons-related activities that are beyond the scope of the Agreed Framework and about ballistic missile development and proliferation in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, normalization of diplomatic relations, and potentially some form of security guarantee.

September 7-12, 1999: During talks in Berlin, North Korea agrees to a moratorium on testing any long-range missiles for the duration of talks with the United States. The United States agrees to a partial lifting of economic sanctions on North Korea. The two parties agree to continue high-level discussions. (Sanctions are not actually lifted until June 2000.)

September 9, 1999: A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate reports that North Korea will “most likely” develop an ICBM capable of delivering a 200-kilogram warhead to the U.S. mainland by 2015.

September 15, 1999: North Korean policy coordinator Perry submits his review of U.S. policy toward North Korea to Congress and releases an unclassified version of the report on October 12. The report recommends “a new, comprehensive and integrated approach to…negotiations with the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] DPRK,” which would involve a coordinated reduction in isolation by the United States and its allies in a “step-by-step and reciprocal fashion.” Potential engagement mechanisms could include the normalization of diplomatic relations and the relaxation of trade sanctions.

November 19, 1999: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for talks on bilateral relations and preparations for a North Korean high-level visit to the United States.

December 15, 1999: Five years after the Agreed Framework was signed, KEDO officials sign a turn-key contract with the Korea Electric Power Corporation to begin construction on the two LWRs in Kumho, North Korea. KEDO officials attribute the delay in signing the contract to complex legal and financial challenges and the tense political climate generated by the North Korean Taepo Dong-1 test in August 1998.

2000

April 6, 2000: The United States imposes sanctions on a North Korean firm, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, for proliferating MTCR Category I items, possibly to Iran. Category I items include complete missile systems with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers and payloads over 500 kilograms, major subsystems, rocket stages or guidance systems, production facilities for MTCR-class missiles, or technology associated with such missiles.*

May 25-27, 2000: The United States conducts its second inspection of the Kumchang-ni site. The inspection team found that conditions had not changed since the first inspection in May 1999.

June 15, 2000: Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have “agreed to resolve” the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement includes promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.

June 19, 2000: Apparently encouraged by the North-South summit, the United States relaxes sanctions on North Korea, allowing a “wide range” of trade in commercial and consumer goods, easing restrictions on investment, and eliminating prohibitions on direct personal and commercial financial transactions. Sanctions related to terrorism and missile proliferation remain in place. The next day, North Korea reaffirms its moratorium on missile tests.

July 12, 2000: The fifth round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks in Kuala Lumpur end without resolution. During the meeting, North Korea repeats its demand for compensation, stated as $1 billion per year, in return for halting missile exports. The United States rejects this proposal but says that it is willing to move toward “economic normalization” in return for addressing U.S. concerns.

July 19, 2000: During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Il reportedly promises to end his country’s missile program in exchange for assistance with satellite launches from countries that have expressed concern about North Korea’s missile program.

July 28, 2000: At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright engages in a “substantively modest” meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, the highest level of exchange to date. Paek gives no additional details about North Korea’s purported offer to end its missile program in return for space-launch assistance.

August 13, 2000: Kim Jong Il tells a meeting of 46 South Korean media executives in Pyongyang that his missile proposal was meant “in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies,” according to the Korea Times. The report of the event is widely interpreted as undercutting the seriousness of Kim’s offer; however, English-language excerpts of Kim’s speech seem to confirm the offer: “I told…Putin that we would stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites.”

August 28, 2000: U.S. Ambassador Wendy Sherman travels to Moscow to confirm the details of Kim Jong Il’s apparent missile proposal with her Russian counterparts. At a September 8 briefing, a senior State Department official says the United States is taking the North Korean offer “very seriously.”

September 27, 2000: U.S.-North Korean talks resume in New York on nuclear issues, missiles, and terrorism. The two countries issue a joint statement on terrorism, a move that indicates progress toward removing North Korea from the State Department’s terrorism list.

October 9-12, 2000: Kim Jong Il’s second-in-command, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, visits Washington as a special envoy. He delivers a letter to President Clinton and meets with the secretaries of state and defense. The move is seen as an affirmation of Kim’s commitment to improving U.S.-North Korean ties.

October 12, 2000: The United States and North Korea issue a joint statement noting that resolution of the missile issue would “make an essential contribution to fundamentally improved relations” and reiterating the two countries’ commitment to implementation of the Agreed Framework. The statement also says that Albright will visit North Korea in the near future to prepare for a possible visit by President Clinton.

October 24, 2000: Secretary Albright concludes a two-day visit to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Il. During the visit, Kim says that North Korea would not further test the Taepo Dong-1 missile. In addition to discussing Pyongyang’s indigenous missile program, the talks cover North Korean missile technology exports, nuclear transparency, the normalization of relations, and a possible trip by President Clinton to Pyongyang.

November 1-3, 2000: A seventh round of missile talks between Pyongyang and Washington ends without an agreement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The failure to build upon the momentum derived from Secretary Albright's recent meeting with Kim Jong-Il diminished hopes of a presidential trip to North Korea before the end of President Clinton's term.

December 28, 2000: President Clinton announces that he will not travel to North Korea before the end of his term, citing "insufficient time to complete the work at hand." According to a March 6 New York Times article, Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger was hesitant to have the president leave the country during the presidential election dispute, which he deemed "a potential 'constitutional crisis.'"

2001

January 2, 2001: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corporation for violation of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000.*

March 6, 2001: At a joint press briefing with the Swedish foreign minister, Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the administration “plan[s] to engage with North Korea to pick up where President Clinton left off. Some promising elements were left on the table and we will be examining those elements.”

March 7, 2001: In a New York Times op-ed, Wendy Sherman, former special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, writes that a deal with North Korea to eliminate its medium- and long-range missiles and end its missile exports had been “tantalizingly close” at the end of the Clinton administration.

After a working meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at the White House, President George W. Bush tells reporters that he “look[s] forward to, at some point in the future, having a dialogue with the North Koreans, but that any negotiation would require complete verification of the terms of a potential agreement.” According to Clinton administration officials, the issue of how to verify a missile deal remained one of the final stumbling blocks to a successful arrangement. Bush also questions whether Pyongyang is “keeping all terms of all agreements.”

Just prior to Bush’s comments, Powell amended his remarks from the previous day, noting that if “there was some suggestion that imminent negotiations are about to begin—that is not the case.”

March 13, 2001: North Korea, apparently reacting to Washington’s new tone, cancels ministerial-level talks with Seoul. The talks were intended to promote further political reconciliation.

March 15, 2001: Pyongyang threatens to “take thousand-fold revenge” on the United States “and its black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].” The statement, issued by the Korean Central News Agency, called Washington’s new policies “hostile” and noted that Pyongyang remains “fully prepared for both dialogue and war.”

May 3, 2001: At a press conference in Pyongyang, a European Union delegation headed by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson reports that Kim Jong Il pledged that he will extend Pyongyang’s moratorium on missile testing until 2003 and that Kim was “committed” to a second inter-Korean summit.

June 6, 2001: In a press release, President Bush announces the completion of his administration’s North Korea policy review and its determination that “serious discussions” on a “broad agenda” should be resumed with Pyongyang. Bush states his desire to conduct “comprehensive” negotiations, including “improved implementation of the Agreed Framework,” “verifiable constraints” on North Korea’s missile programs, a ban on North Korea’s missile exports, and “a less threatening conventional military posture.”

June 13, 2001: U.S. Special Envoy Jack Pritchard meets in New York with the North Korean representative to the UN, Hyong-ch’ol Yi, to make arrangements for bilateral talks.

June 26, 2001: The State Department announces sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 on North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, for unspecified missile-related transfers to Iran. The announcement represents the second time that sanctions had been imposed under the act, the first also being on Changgwang Sinyong on January 2.

The sanctions prohibit any U.S. entity from doing business with the North Korean firm, which has been punished several times previously under more general missile transfer sanctions. However, the sanctions are largely symbolic, as Changgwang Sinyong is still subject to the active sanctions imposed on January 2, 2001, and missile sanctions that were imposed on April 6, 2000.*

July 6, 2001: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage confirms that North Korea tested a rocket “motor engine” in late June, but that there was “nothing in itself wrong with that,” nor did the administration consider the test to have violated Pyongyang’s testing moratorium.

August 4, 2001: During a meeting in Moscow with President Putin, Kim Jong Il reaffirms his pledge to maintain a moratorium on ballistic missile flight-tests until 2003.

2002

January 29, 2002: In his State of the Union address, President Bush criticized North Korea for “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.” Bush characterized North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, as constituting an “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

February 5, 2002: At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Powell reiterates the administration's policy that it is willing to resume a dialogue with North Korea at "any time, any place, or anywhere without any preconditions." Powell also confirms that the administration believes that Pyongyang continues to "comply with the [missile flight-test] moratorium they placed upon themselves and stay within the KEDO agreement," which is also known as the Agreed Framework.

March 15, 2002: Following reports that the U.S. nuclear posture review discusses the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea, Pyongyang's state-run press organ announces that, if the United States "tries to use nuclear weapons" against North Korea, it will be compelled to "examine all the agreements" reached with the United States. The report says that, "if the U.S. inflicts nuclear holocaust upon [North Korea], the former's mainland will not be safe either."

April 1, 2002: President Bush issues a memorandum stating that he will not certify North Korea's compliance with the Agreed Framework. However, for national security considerations, Bush waives applicable U.S. law prohibiting Washington from funding KEDO, allowing the United States to continue financially supporting the Agreed Framework.

July 2, 2002: The United States cancels a planned delegation visit to North Korea, citing Pyongyang’s failure to respond to a proposed July 10 meeting date, as well as a June 29 naval skirmish between North and South Korea.

July 31, 2002: Powell meets briefly with Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum meeting in Brunei, generating speculation that a U.S. envoy will visit North Korea. It is the highest-level exchange between the two countries since the Bush administration took office.

August 7, 2002: KEDO holds a ceremony to mark the pouring of the concrete foundation for the first LWR that the United States agreed to provide North Korea under the Agreed Framework. Jack Pritchard, the U.S. representative to KEDO and State Department special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, attends the ceremony. Pritchard is the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea since former Secretary of State Albright in October 2000.

The United States urges North Korea to comply with IAEA safeguarding procedures for all its nuclear facilities as soon as possible, but Pyongyang states that it will not do so for at least three years, the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports August 8. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman also states that delays in completing the reactor project might motivate Pyongyang to pull out of the agreement.

August 16, 2002: The United States imposes sanctions on Changgwang Sinyong Corporation of North Korea and on the North Korean government itself for transferring missile technology to Yemen. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer states August 23 that the sanctions were a “pro forma requirement under the law for the State Department” and that Washington remains willing to “talk with North Korea any time, any place.”

August 31, 2002: Responding to an August 29 speech by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, North Korea says that “if the U.S. has a will to drop its hostile policy toward the DPRK it will have dialogue…the ball is in the court of the U.S. side.” Bolton had criticized Pyongyang’s missile, nuclear, and biological weapons programs.

September 17, 2002: North Korea announces that it will indefinitely extend its moratorium on missile testing as part of the North Korea-Japan Pyongyang Declaration signed during a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

A portion of the North Korea-Japan declaration references nuclear weapons, saying that the two countries “affirmed the pledge to observe all the international agreements for a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” It is unclear whether this statement simply affirms a commitment to existing agreements or signals support for additional arms control measures.

October 3-5, 2002: James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, visits North Korea. The highest-ranking administration official to visit Pyongyang, Kelly reiterates U.S. concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, export of missile components, conventional force posture, human rights violations, and humanitarian situation. Kelly informs North Korea that it could improve bilateral relations through a “comprehensive settlement” addressing these issues. No future meetings are announced.

Referring to Kelly’s approach as “high handed and arrogant,” North Korea argues that the U.S. policy “compels the DPRK to take all necessary countermeasures, pursuant to the army-based policy whose validity has been proven.”

October 16, 2002: The United States announces that North Korea admitted to having a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons after James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, confronted representatives from Pyongyang during an October 3-5 visit. Kelly later explained that the North Korean admission came the day after he informed them that the United States was aware of the program. North Korea has denied several times that it admitted to having this program.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher states that "North Korea's secret nuclear weapons program is a serious violation of North Korea's commitments under the Agreed Framework as well as under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
Boucher also says that the United States wants North Korea to comply with its nonproliferation commitments and seeks "a peaceful resolution of this situation."

November 5, 2002: North Korea threatens to end its moratorium on ballistic missile tests if North Korea-Japan normalization talks do not achieve progress.

November 14, 2002: KEDO announces that it is suspending heavy-fuel oil deliveries to North Korea in response to Pyongyang's October 4 acknowledgment that it has a uranium-enrichment program. The last shipment reached North Korea November 18.

November 29, 2002: The IAEA adopts a resolution calling upon North Korea to "clarify" its "reported uranium-enrichment program." North Korea rejects the resolution, saying the IAEA's position is biased in favor of the United States.

December 9, 2002: Spanish and U.S. forces intercept and search a ship carrying a shipment of North Korean Scud missiles and related cargo to Yemen. The United States allows the shipment to be delivered because it lacks the necessary legal authority to seize the cargo. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says that Washington had intelligence that the ship was carrying missiles to the Middle East and was concerned that its ultimate destination might have been Iraq.

December 12, 2002: North Korea sends a letter to the IAEA announcing that it is restarting its one functional reactor and is reopening the other nuclear facilities frozen under the Agreed Framework. The letter requests that the IAEA remove the seals and monitoring equipment from its nuclear facilities. A North Korean spokesman blames the United States for violating the Agreed Framework and says that the purpose of restarting the reactor is to generate electricity-an assertion disputed by U.S. officials.

A November 27 Congressional Research Service report states that the reactor could annually produce enough plutonium for one bomb. The CIA states in a 2002 report to Congress that the spent-fuel rods "contain enough plutonium for several more [nuclear] weapons."

U.S. estimates on North Korea's current nuclear status differ. A State Department official said January 3, 2003 that the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea already possesses one or two nuclear weapons made from plutonium produced before the negotiation of the Agreed Framework. The CIA publicly estimates that Pyongyang "has produced enough plutonium" for one or two weapons.

December 14, 2002: North Korea states in a letter to the IAEA that the status of its nuclear facilities is a matter between the United States and North Korea and "not pursuant to any agreement" with the IAEA. The letter further declares that North Korea will take unilateral action to remove seals and monitoring cameras if the IAEA does not act.

December 22-24, 2002: North Korea cuts all seals and disrupts IAEA surveillance equipment on its nuclear facilities and materials. An IAEA spokesman says December 26 that North Korea started moving fresh fuel rods into the reactor, suggesting that it might be restarted soon.

December 27, 2002: North Korea orders IAEA inspectors out of the country. They leave on December 31.

2003

January 6, 2003: The IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution condemning North Korea's decision to restart its nuclear reactor and resume operation of its related facilities. The resolution "deplores" North Korea's action "in the strongest terms" and calls on Pyongyang to meet "immediately, as a first step" with IAEA officials. It also calls on North Korea to re-establish the seals and monitoring equipment it dismantled, comply fully with agency safeguards, clarify details about its reported uranium-enrichment program, and allow the agency to verify that all North Korea’s nuclear material is "declared and…subject to safeguards."

January 10, 2003: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), effective January 11. Although Article X of the NPT requires that a country give three months’ notice in advance of withdrawing, North Korea argues that it has satisfied that requirement because it originally announced its decision to withdraw March 12, 1993, and suspended the decision one day before it was to become legally binding.

January 12, 2003: Choe Jin Su, North Korea’s ambassador to China, signals that Pyongyang might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, saying that Pyongyang believes it “cannot go along with the self-imposed missile moratorium any longer,” according to a January 12 Los Angeles Times article.

February 12, 2003: Responding to North Korea’s rejection of the November 2002 and January 2003 IAEA resolutions, the IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution declaring Pyongyang in “further non-compliance” with its obligations under the NPT. The board decides to report the matter to the UN Security Council, in accordance with agency mandates.

February 27, 2003: U.S. officials confirm North Korea has restarted the five-megawatt nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the Agreed Framework.

March 19, 2003: North Korea again signals that it might not adhere to its moratorium on testing long-range missiles, asserting in a March 19 KCNA statement that it has the “sovereign right” to have a “peaceful” missile program. North Korea conducted missile tests February 24 and March 10, but both tests involved short-range missiles that did not violate the moratorium.

March 24, 2003: The United States imposes sanctions on the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation of North Korea for transferring missile technology to Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan. The laboratory was sanctioned for receiving the items. Philip Reeker, deputy State Department spokesman, said April 1 that the sanctions were imposed only for a “missile-related transfer” and not the transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to North Korea.

April 23-25, 2003: The United States, North Korea, and China hold trilateral talks in Beijing. North Korea tells the U.S. delegation that it possesses nuclear weapons, according to Boucher on April 28. This constitutes the first time that Pyongyang has made such an admission.

North Korea also tells the U.S. delegation that it has completed reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel from the five-megawatt reactor frozen under the Agreed Framework, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell during an April 30 hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Boucher adds that the North Korean delegation told the U.S. officials that Pyongyang “might get rid of all their nuclear programs…[and] stop their missile exports.” Powell states April 28 that North Korea expects “something considerable in return” for this effort.

May 12, 2003
North Korea accuses the United States of violating the spirit of the 1992 Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, calling the agreement a “dead document” in a KCNA statement.

July 15, 2003
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher tells reporters that North Korean officials at their UN mission in New York have told U.S. officials that North Korea has completed reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor.

August 27-29, 2003
The first round of six-party talks is held in Beijing. The talks achieve no significant breakthroughs.

North Korea proposes a step-by-step solution, calling for the United States to conclude a “non-aggression treaty,” normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, complete the reactors promised under the Agreed Framework, resume suspended fuel oil shipments, and increase food aid. Pyongyang states that, in return, it will dismantle its “nuclear facility,” as well as end missile testing and export of missiles and related components. North Korea issues an explicit denial for the first time that it has a uranium-enrichment program.

The North Korean delegation, however, also threatens to test nuclear weapons or “demonstrate the means that they would have to deliver” them, according to a senior State Department official.

September 14, 2003: President George W. Bush agrees to waive the restrictions on U.S. funding to KEDO but only pledges to provide $3.72 million solely for administrative expenses. The United States does not provide any further funding for KEDO after 2003.


October 2, 2003
KCNA reports a statement from a North Korean Foreign Ministry official indicating that North Korea completed reprocessing its 8,000 spent fuel rods and “made a switchover in the use” of the spent fuel “in the direction increasing [sic] its nuclear deterrent force.” The official also states that Pyongyang will continue to produce and reprocess additional spent fuel when deemed necessary.

October 16, 2003
A statement from a North Korean Foreign Ministry official reported by KCNA suggests that Pyongyang may test nuclear weapons, stating that it will “take a measure to open its nuclear deterrent to the public as a physical force” if the United States refuses to change its negotiating stance.

October 19, 2003
President George W. Bush states during a trip to Asia that the United States is willing to provide a written, multilateral guarantee that the United States will not attack North Korea, but makes it clear that a formal nonaggression pact is “off the table.” Powell made a similar statement August 1.

November 6, 2003: North Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ri Yong Ho, tells Reuters that North Korea possesses a workable nuclear device.

November 21, 2003
The KEDO Executive Board announces that it will suspend construction of two light-water nuclear reactors for one year beginning December 1. The Board adds that the project’s future “will be assessed and decided by the Executive Board before the expiration of the suspension period.” Department of State spokesperson Adam Ereli said November 5, however, that Bush administration believes there is “no future for the project.”

2004

January 8, 2004
North Korea allows an unofficial U.S. delegation to visit its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and displays what it calls its “nuclear deterrent.” North Korean officials allow delegation member Siegfried Hecker—a senior fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory—to handle a jar containing what appears to be plutonium metal. North Korean officials claim that it came from reprocessing the spent fuel rods from its five-megawatt reactor.

The delegation also visits the spent fuel cooling pond that had been monitored under the Agreed Framework and observes that the rods have been removed. The North Korean officials tell the delegation that Pyongyang reprocessed all of the spent fuel rods between January and June 2003.

Hecker later tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he does not know for certain that the substance was plutonium and that he could not determine when it was produced.

February 25-28, 2004
A second round of six-party talks takes place in Beijing. Little progress is made, although both sides agree to hold another round of talks before the end of June 2004, as well as a working group meeting to be held beforehand.

South Korea’s deputy foreign minister, Lee Soo-hyuck, issues a proposal—which China and Russia both support—to provide energy assistance to the North in return for a freeze of its nuclear program, along with a promise to dismantle it.

Wang Yi, China’s envoy to the six-party talks, states afterwards that “sharp” differences remain between Washington and Pyongyang. According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, two specific issues divide North Korea and other participants. The first is that the United States, Japan, and South Korea want all of North Korea’s nuclear programs to be dismantled, but North Korea wishes to be allowed to retain one for “peaceful purposes.” The second is that Washington and the other two governments want Pyongyang to acknowledge that it has a uranium-enrichment program.

June 23-26, 2004: A third round of six-party talks is held in Beijing. The United States presents a detailed proposal for resolving the crisis.

The proposal calls for a two-phase process in which North Korea would receive fuel oil from China, South Korea, and Russia after agreeing to first freeze, then dismantle its nuclear programs. The United States and the other parties to the talks would also draft a multilateral security agreement and begin surveying North Korea’s energy needs. Additionally, Washington would begin bilateral discussions with Pyongyang on the removal of U.S. sanctions. The benefits spelled out in the proposal could be withdrawn if North Korea did not comply.

According to a June 28 North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, North Korea counters by proposing to “refrain from” producing, testing, or transferring nuclear weapons and to freeze “all the facilities related to nuclear weapons and products churned out by their operation.” According to the Foreign Ministry, the length of the freeze depends on “whether reward is made or not.”

November 26, 2004: The KEDO Executive Board announces that it will extend its suspension of the light-water reactor project for another year, beginning December 1.

2005

February 2, 2005: The New York Times and The Washington Post report that Libya received uranium hexafluoride suspected to be of North Korean origin in 2004. Several knowledgeable U.S. and other diplomatic sources later tell Arms Control Today that the evidence indicates, but does not prove, that the material originated in North Korea.

February 10, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces that Pyongyang has “produced nuclear weapons.” This was Pyongyang’s most definitive public claim to date at the time

 

on the status of its nuclear arsenal.

February 21, 2005: Seoul’s semi-official Yonhap News Agency reports that South Korea’s defense minister, Yoon Kwang-ung, tells a National Assembly Committee that North Korea has reprocessed “only part” of the 8,000 spent fuel rods from the Yongbyon reactor.

March 2, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that Pyongyang is no longer bound by its more than five-year-old moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles. Pyongyang, however, does not say it will resume such testing.

Early April, 2005: The United States sends an urgent diplomatic message to allies notifying them of U.S. concerns that North Korea might conduct a nuclear test.

April 9, 2005: North Korea expert Selig Harrison tells reporters that, during a recent meeting, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan said Pyongyang might give nuclear weapons to terrorists if “the United States drives us into a corner.”

May 11, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces that it has “successfully finished the unloading of 8,000 spent fuel rods” from its Yongbyon reactor. South Korea has verified the reactor shutdown “through various channels,” Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry official Kim Sook tells the Korean Broadcasting System the same day.

June 2005: Pyongyang refuels its reactor at Yongbyon and begins reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods removed in March, North Korean officials later tell Hecker.

June 29, 2005: The U.S. Treasury Department announces that the United States has frozen the U.S. assets of three North Korean entities “responsible for WMD and missile programs,” as well as barred U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with those entities. Those measures are taken pursuant to Executive Order 13382 issued that day by President George W. Bush.

July 9, 2005: After a meeting between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, North Korea announces its return to the six-party talks. According to a KCNA statement, the “U.S. side clarified its official stand to recognize [North Korea] as a sovereign state, not to invade it and hold bilateral talks within the framework of the six-party talks.”

July 13, 2005: During a meeting with an envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il reiterates his father’s [Kim Il Sung] apparent dying wish for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, according to KCNA.

July 26, 2005: A new round of six-party talks begins in Beijing. The talks include an unprecedented number of U.S.-North Korean bilateral talks. While North Korea continued to deny that it has a “uranium-based nuclear weapons program,” Pyongyang suggested that it would “clarify” any relevant “credible information or evidence” presented by the United States in that regard.

The participants agree August 7 to recess for several weeks. The talks resume September 13.

September 15, 2005: The Department of the Treasury designates a Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia, as a “primary money laundering concern” under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, freezing about $25 million in North Korean funds. A department press release states that the bank has provided services to North Korean “government agencies and front companies,” adding that “[e]vidence exists that some of these agencies and front companies are engaged in illicit activities,” such as drug trafficking. The bank also has also circulated North Korean-produced counterfeit U.S. currency, the press release alleges.

September 19, 2005: The participants in the six-party talks conclude a joint statement of principles to guide future negotiations.

According to the statement, North Korea commits “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.” It also calls for the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which forbids the two Koreas from possessing uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation facilities, to be “observed and implemented.” Washington affirms in the statement that it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea.

The statement commits the participants to achieving “the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner” and says that the parties agree “to take coordinated steps to implement” the agreed-upon obligations and rewards “in a phased manner in line with the principle of ‘commitment for commitment, action for action.’”

The statement says that North Korea “stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and that the other parties “expressed their respect and agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision” of a light-water nuclear power reactor to Pyongyang. This issue had been controversial during the negotiations and the final agreement was the result of a compromise between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea insisted that the statement recognize its right to a peaceful nuclear energy program and commit the other participants to provide it with light-water reactors while the United States argued that North Korea should not receive any nuclear reactors.

September 20, 2005: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that it is “essential” for the United States to provide light-water reactors to Pyongyang “as early as possible,” adding that Washington “should not even dream” that North Korea will dismantle its “nuclear deterrent” before receiving the reactors. However, a speech from North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon two days later appears to back away from this formulation.

October 20, 2005: Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who visited North Korea earlier in the month, says North Korean officials told him they had reprocessed the 8,000 spent fuel rods from the Yongbyon reactor, the Associated Press reports.

October 21, 2005: The Treasury Department announces that it has sanctioned eight North Korean entities pursuant to Executive Order 13382 for their unspecified “involvement” in the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or related delivery vehicles. The action freezes the entities’ U.S. assets and prohibits transactions between these entities and any U.S. citizens or companies. The department had similarly designated those entities’ parent companies in June.

November 9-11, 2005: The fifth round of the six-party talks begins in Beijing.

South Korea and Japan present concrete plans for implementing the September statement. Both countries propose that the participants separate outstanding issues into three categories: the dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear program, provision of economic and energy assistance to North Korea, and Pyongyang’s bilateral issues with Washington and Tokyo.

Disagreements between Washington and Pyongyang continue to block progress. The North Korean delegation focuses almost exclusively on the funds frozen by the September Banco Delta Asia designation.

December 19, 2005: North Korea announces that it will “pursue” the construction of larger “graphite-moderated reactors,” an apparent reference to the two reactors whose construction had been frozen under the Agreed Framework in Pyongyang’s most definitive public statement on the matter.

2006

March 7, 2006: Officials from the U.S. Treasury Department brief North Korea’s deputy director-general for North America, Li Gun, as well as other North Korean officials about the U.S. actions taken with respect to Banco Delta Asia. Li tells reporters afterward that his delegation proposed several methods for resolving U.S. concerns, South Korea’s semi-official Yonhap News Agency reports. Among them was a suggestion to form a joint U.S.-North Korean consultative committee of experts that would discuss such issues as counterfeiting and money laundering.

March 17, 2006: Department of State spokesperson Adam Ereli indicates during a press briefing that issues related to North Korea’s financial system could potentially be discussed in the six-party talks.

March 30, 2006: The Treasury Department announces that it has imposed penalties on a Swiss company, along with one of its owners, for procuring “goods with weapons-related applications” for North Korea.

April 13, 2006: North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan tells reporters that Pyongyang would return to the talks if the United States lifted the freeze of Banco Delta Asia’s funds, which total approximately $25 million.

June 1, 2006: The KEDO Executive Board announces that it has formally terminated its project to build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea.

The board says its decision was based on the “continued and extended failure” of North Korea to comply with its relevant obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework.

According to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, KEDO’s executive board adopted a resolution the previous day saying that Seoul is to “cover the costs arising from the liquidation process,” of the KEDO assets, such as resolving compensation claims from subcontractors. In return, the government-owned Korea Electric Power Corp., the prime contractor for the reactor project, would gain ownership over reactor “equipment and materials” located outside of North Korea. The fate of assets remaining in North Korea, such as vehicles and construction equipment, is unclear.

July 4-5, 2006: North Korea test fires seven ballistic missiles, including its longest-range missile, the Taepo Dong-2. The other six tests include a combination of short- and medium-range Scud-C and Nodong ballistic missiles, launched from the Kittaraeyong test site. Although the tests of the six short-range missiles appear to be successful, the Taepo Dong-2 fails less than a minute after launch.

A July 4 State Department press statement describes the launches as a “provocative act” that violated North Korea’s voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles, which Pyongyang had observed since September 1999.

Japan and South Korea punish North Korea for conducting the tests, with Tokyo imposing sanctions on Pyongyang and Seoul halting food and fertilizer assistance.

July 15, 2006: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1695 condemning North Korea’s missile launches. The resolution calls on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and “demands” that the country suspend its ballistic-missile activities and re-establish its flight-testing moratorium.

The resolution also requires states to prevent missiles and related “items, materials, goods and technology” from being transferred to North Korea’s missile or weapons of mass destruction programs. In addition, it requires countries to prevent the procurement of such items from Pyongyang and the transfer of any “financial resources in relation to” North Korea’s weapons programs.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states the next day that Pyongyang will “not be bound” by the resolution.

September 19, 2006: Japan and Australia announce that they have adopted sanctions targeting multiple foreign entities tied to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs in response to resolution 1695.

The two countries each punish the same 12 organizations, as well as a Swiss citizen. All entities are already subject to similar U.S. sanctions. Japan also sanctions three additional institutions.

October 3, 2006: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issues a statement asserting that Pyongyang “will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed.” Apparently signaling a degree of restraint, the statement also says that North Korea will refrain from the first-use of nuclear weapons, “strictly prohibit any …nuclear transfer,” and “do its utmost to realize the denuclearization of the [Korean] peninsula.”

October 9, 2006: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test near the village of P’unggye. Most early analyses of the test based on seismic data collected by South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. institutes estimates the yield to be below one kiloton. Russian estimates differed significantly, and Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov said Oct. 10 that the estimated yield was between 5 and 15 kilotons.

October 11, 2006: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry states that its “nuclear test was entirely attributable to the US nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure,” adding that North Korea “was compelled to substantially prove its possession of nukes to protect its sovereignty.” The statement also indicates that North Korea might conduct further nuclear tests if the United States “increases pressure” on the country.

However, the Foreign Ministry also says that North Korea remains committed to implementing the September 2005 joint statement, arguing that the test “constitutes a positive measure for its implementation.” Additionally, Pyongyang “still remains unchanged in its will to denuclearize the peninsula through dialogue and negotiations,” the Foreign Ministry statement says, adding that the “denuclearization of the entire peninsula was President Kim Il Sung’s last instruction and an ultimate goal” of North Korea.

October 14, 2006: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1718. The measure demands that North Korea refrain from further nuclear tests and calls on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and abandon its nuclear weapons. It also imposes additional sanctions on commerce with Pyongyang, widening the range of prohibited transactions beyond those banned under Resolution 1695.

November 28-December 1, 2006: The Chinese, North Korean, South Korean, and U.S. envoys to the six-party talks hold consultations in Beijing to discuss resuming the fifth round of talks. During the consultations, North Korean envoy Kim Gye Gwan states that North Korea is ready to implement the September 19, 2005 joint statement and abandon its nuclear program, but would not do so “unilaterally.”

December 18-22, 2006: The fifth round of six-party talks resumes in Beijing. The United States presents a multistage denuclearization plan, but the talks make no progress towards implementing the September 19, 2005 joint statement—in part due to continued disagreements regarding the North Korean funds frozen by the United States in Banco Delta Asia. The parties agree to meet again “at the earliest opportunity.”

2007

February 8-13, 2007: The six-party talks concludes its fifth round with an agreed “action plan” of initial steps to implement the September 19, 2005 joint statement on North Korea’s denuclearization.

According to the action plan, North Korea is to halt the operation of its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon during a 60-day initial phase in return for an initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil.

The action plan also establishes five working groups to “discuss and formulate specific plans” regarding: economic and energy cooperation; denuclearization; implementation of a “Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism;” North Korean relations with the United States; and North Korean relations with Japan.

The statement indicates that, following the shutdown of North Korea’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, Pyongyang is to provide a complete declaration of all of its nuclear programs and disable all of its existing nuclear facilities in return for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil or its equivalent.

In addition to helping to provide energy aid to North Korea, the United States agrees to begin the process of removing Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and to stop the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act toward North Korea.

March 13-14, 2007: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visits North Korea and meets with three officials, including the head of the North Korean General Department of Atomic Energy, Ri Je Son. During the meetings, ElBaradei invites North Korea to return to the IAEA as a member state and discusses the agency’s monitoring and verification role during the implementation of a February 13 six-party talks agreement.

March 19-22, 2007: The sixth round of six-party talks begins in Beijing. The discussions are suspended when North Korean negotiators fly home after four days, explaining that they will not participate until the United States transfers $25 million in frozen North Korean funds held in Banco Delta Asia.

On March 19, Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Daniel Glaser announces that the two countries had “reached an understanding” regarding the frozen funds, with Washington accepting a North Korean proposal that the funds would be transferred to a North Korean account in the Bank of China in Beijing. North Korea also pledges that the funds “will be used solely for the betterment of the North Korean people, including for humanitarian and educational purposes.”

April 10, 2007: The United States agrees to unfreeze the $25 million in North Korean funds frozen in its Banco Delta Asia account. U.S. officials insist, meanwhile, that North Korea, “live up to the assurances that these funds will be used for the betterment of the North Korean people and for humanitarian purposes.”

June 25, 2007: A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman confirms that the Banco Delta Asia funds were transferred to Pyongyang and that North Korea would begin shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. An IAEA delegation led by Deputy Director-General for safeguards Ollie Heinonen arrives in Pyongyang the following day to discuss the verification procedures for the shutdown.

July 16, 2007: The IAEA confirms the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

July 18-20, 2007: The six-party talks reconvenes its sixth round in Beijing. The meeting concludes with a joint communiqué indicating that the five working groups will all meet by the end of August in preparation for another round of plenary talks in September.

September 6, 2007: Israel carries out an air-strike destroying a Syrian facility of an undetermined purpose. Early press reports quoting unnamed U.S. officials suggest that the target of the airstrike was a nuclear facility under construction with North Korean assistance. Days after the strike, Syrian officials deny that the facility was nuclear related, while Israeli and U.S. officials only confirm that an air-strike was carried out. In the following months, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill states on several occasions that he has raised the issue of the Syrian facility with North Korea. U.S. officials later indicate that the facility was believed to have been a nearly completed nuclear reactor modeled on the North Korean nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

September 11-14, 2007: A team of Chinese, Russian, and U.S. experts visit North Korea to examine the Yongbyon nuclear facilities to determine the steps necessary to disable them. The experts team agrees on a draft disablement plan with North Korean officials which is to be considered by the next plenary meeting of the six-party talks.

September 27-October 3, 2007: The sixth round of six-party talks meets to discuss how to proceed with the second phase of the February 13 agreement. On October 3, the participants issue a joint statement in which North Korea agrees that, by December 31, it would provide a “complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs – including clarification regarding the uranium issue,” and disable its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. Pyongyang also agrees to disable all other nuclear facilities subject to the September 2005 joint statement and not to transfer nuclear material or technology abroad.

In return, the six-parties agree that North Korea would receive the remaining 900,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil or its equivalent pledged in the February 13 agreement.

The United States also agrees that it will fulfill its commitments to begin removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and “advance the process of terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act” toward North Korea “in parallel with” North Korea’s denuclearization actions.

October 2-4, 2007: South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun travels to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to discuss prospects for reconciliation and economic cooperation. It is the second time in history that such summit-level discussions have been held.

The summit concludes with a an eight-point joint declaration in which both sides agree to take steps toward reunification, ease military tensions, expand meetings of separated families, and engage in social and cultural exchanges. The declaration also expresses a “shared understanding” by the two countries “on the need for ending the current armistice mechanism and building a permanent peace mechanism.”

November 5, 2007: A team of U.S. experts arrives in North Korea to begin leading the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. The disablement process consists of 11 agreed steps to be completed by the December 31 deadline stipulated in the October 3 agreement. Funding for the disablement process is provided by the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF), which is ordinarily reserved for short-term emergency nonproliferation needs.

December 19, 2007: Grand National Party candidate Lee Myung-bak is elected president of South Korea, ushering in the first conservative government in Seoul in 10 years. During his campaign, Lee pledged to review the “Sunshine policy” of short-term reconciliation with North Korea adopted by his two predecessors, instead favoring the application of greater pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize.

December 21, 2007: The Washington Post reports that U.S. technical teams discovered traces of enriched uranium on aluminum tubes North Korea shared with U.S. officials in November. According to the report, it is unclear whether the contamination originated in North Korea as a result of uranium enrichment carried out by Pyongyang, or if North Korea imported materials which were contaminated abroad and placed these materials in close proximity to the aluminum tubes.

2008

January 2, 2008: Following a December 31, 2007 deadline for North Korea to provide a complete and correct declaration on its nuclear programs and disable its Yongbyon nuclear facilities, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack indicates that “some technical questions about the cooling of the fuel rods” was the reason behind the failure to meet the year-end deadline for disablement. He added that Washington would continue to press Pyongyang for its nuclear declaration.

January 4, 2008: KCNA releases a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement declaring that North Korea “worked out a report on the nuclear declaration in November last year and notified the U.S. side of its contents.” The statement also accuses the other parties of falling behind on their commitments under an October 2007 agreement, including delays in the delivery of heavy-fuel oil to North Korea. Pyongyang indicated that it would slow down the disablement process in response to delays in the delivery of energy assistance.

February 6, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and indicates that, in the Fall of 2007, North Korea showed U.S. officials two conventional weapons systems it claimed were the recipients of the thousands of aluminum tubes Pyongyang imported years ago which raised suspicions of a uranium enrichment program. He informs the committee that while the tubes did not work with one of these systems, the U.S. government accepts that the tubes were currently being used for a second conventional weapons system.

Hill also requests from Congress a limited waiver of 1994 Glenn amendment sanctions imposed on North Korea following its nuclear test in 2006. These sanctions, which prohibit the provision of non-humanitarian assistance to non-nuclear-weapon states which have detonated a nuclear weapon, prevent the National Nuclear Security Administration from carrying out work to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

February 25, 2008: South Korean President-elect Lee Myung-bak is inaugurated.

March 13-14, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korea Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan meet in Geneva to discuss ways to make progress on North Korea’s declaration, including the consideration of a compromise approach to the declaration format. Press reports from the Yonhap News Agency and The Washington Times suggest that compromise proposals would include a formal North Korean declaration on its plutonium program, while the uranium enrichment question and the issue of proliferation would be addressed separately. The meeting ends inconclusively.

April 8, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korea Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan meet in Singapore for additional discussions on the North Korean declaration. The two envoys reportedly reached a compromise agreement on the North Korean nuclear declaration which would entail North Korea’s accounting of its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program and its acknowledgment of U.S. allegations regarding its proliferation and uranium enrichment activities.

April 24, 2008: U.S. administration and intelligence officials brief Congress and the public regarding their assessment that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel in September 2007 was a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean assistance. The briefings featured a CIA-produced video that includes photographs taken from inside and around the facility at various times during its construction, as well as satellite images and digital renderings of certain elements of the reactor’s operations.

May 8, 2008: North Korea provides a U.S. delegation in Pyongyang with about 18,000 pages of documentation detailing the operations of two of its primary plutonium-related facilities at Yongbyon: a five megawatt nuclear reactor and a reprocessing facility. The records date back to 1986.

June 24, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill tells reporters that North Korea’s upcoming nuclear declaration will consist of a “package of items” listing all nuclear materials and programs. The package will reportedly include a formal accounting of North Korea’s plutonium and plutonium-related nuclear facilities and side-documents regarding nuclear proliferation and uranium enrichment. Hill says the declaration will not include an accounting of nuclear weapons, which “are to be determined at a subsequent phase.”

June 26, 2008: Pyongyang delivers a declaration of its nuclear programs to China, the six-party talks chair. The declaration reportedly indicates that North Korea separated a total of about 30 kilograms of plutonium, and used about 2 kilograms for its 2006 nuclear test.

In return for North Korea’s declaration, President George W. Bush rescinds the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act toward Pyongyang, and notifies Congress of his intention to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after 45 days, in accordance with U.S. law.

June 30, 2008: President George W. Bush signs into law the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008, which includes a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions on North Korea related to the 1994 Glenn Amendment imposed on Pyongyang following its 2006 nuclear test.

July 12, 2008: The participants in the six-party talks issue a statement outlining broadly the process for verifying North Korea’s nuclear programs. The six parties agree that experts from those countries will be involved in visits to nuclear facilities, the review of documents related to North Korea’s nuclear program, and the interview of technical personnel. The statement also establishes a timeline for completing the disablement of North Korea’s key nuclear facilities and the energy assistance being provided to Pyongyang in return, stating that both processes would be “fully implemented in parallel.”

Mid-July, 2008: The United States tables a draft verification protocol describing procedures used to verify all elements of North Korea’s nuclear programs, including uranium enrichment, weapons, and proliferation. The protocol includes provisions for access upon request for any declared or undeclared site and lists technical recording and detection measures inspectors could undertake. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill tells reporters July 22 that North Korea “indicated some problems” with the draft.

July 23, 2008: The foreign ministers of the six-party talks participants meet informally on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

Late July 2008: North Korea proposes a draft protocol to verify its nuclear activities. Diplomatic sources later tell Arms Control Today that this proposal is insufficient and it is not used as the basis for further verification negotiations.

August 2008: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly suffers a stroke, raising questions outside the country as to the status of the leadership in Pyongyang.

August 11, 2008: The 45-day period after which the president may remove North Korea from the State Department’s terrorism list expires. The president does not carry out the de-listing at this time. State Department spokesman Robert Wood tells reporters the next day that the 45-day period is a “minimum” rather than a deadline.

August 13, 2008: Japan and North Korea reach an agreement on procedures for addressing the abduction issue. Pyongyang commits to complete a reinvestigation into the fate of the abducted Japanese nationals by Fall 2008 and to provide Tokyo with access to locations, documents, and interviews in North Korea to conduct its own investigation. In return, Japan agrees to lift certain travel restrictions between the two countries and to discuss easing a ban on North Korea’s access to Japanese ports. The agreement is not implemented in the agreed timeframe.

August 22, 2008: Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy to the six-party talks, meets with North Korean officials in New York regarding revisions to the U.S. draft verification protocol.

August 26, 2008: KCNA carries a statement by a North Korean Foreign ministry official stating that the United States has not carried out its commitment to remove Pyongyang from the State Department’s terrorism list and that agreement on a verification protocol was not a condition of that commitment. In response, the statement indicates that Pyongyang will suspend the disablement of its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and consider taking steps to restore them “to their original state.”

September 17, 2008: Jane’s Defense Weekly reports that North Korea has nearly completed a new missile test site on its western coast near the village of Pongdong-ni. The site is believed to be more sophisticated than North Korea’s eastern missile launch site at Musudan-ri, with a capacity to carry out flights tests of larger missiles on a more frequent basis.

September 24, 2008: The IAEA issues a press statement indicating that, at Pyongyang’s request, the agency completed removing seals from North Korea’s reprocessing facility. The statement also said that North Korea informed the agency that it would begin introducing nuclear material at that facility “in one week’s time” and that inspectors would no longer have access to the plant.

October 1-3, 2008: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill visits Pyongyang to discuss verification.

October 11, 2008: U.S. officials hold a State Department press briefing to announce a preliminary agreement with Pyongyang on measures to verify North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. The agreement consists of a written joint document and verbal understandings which they say must be approved by the other four six-party talks participants. According to a State Department summary, the new agreement gives inspectors access to all 15 declared sites related to North Korea’s plutonium production program as well as undeclared sites “by mutual consent.” It also allows inspectors to carry out “scientific procedures” such as sampling.

In response to the verification agreement, the United States removes North Korea from the State Department’s terrorism list.

October 13, 2008: KCNA issues a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement indicating that, following its removal from the State Department’s terrorism list, Pyongyang will resume disabling its key nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

November 13, 2008: The North Korean Foreign Ministry issues a statement which denies that Pyongyang agreed to allow inspectors to carry out sampling at its nuclear facilities. The statement says that inspection activities are limited to “field visits, confirmation of documents, and interviews with technicians.” Pyongyang also says it is slowing, by half, the rate at which it removed spent fuel rods from its five-megawatt reactor in response to delays in receiving pledged energy aid.

Early December 2008: The United States completes the final shipment of its 200,000 tons of heavy fuel oil pledged to North Korea, bringing the total energy assistance to about 550,000 of 1 million tons.

December 8-11, 2008: Six-party discussions on verification, disablement, and energy assistance in Beijing end in stalemate due to a failure to reach agreement on verification. U.S. officials later claim that North Korea refused to agree in writing what it agreed verbally in October. The six parties issue a chairman’s statement in which they agree “to implement in parallel the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and the provision of economic and energy assistance.”

December 12, 2008: State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack says that heavy fuel oil shipments to North Korea will not continue without a verification agreement, stating that “there is an understanding among the parties...that fuel oil shipments will not go forward absent progress.” China and Russia deny such an understanding and indicate that they intend to complete their share of the energy assistance.

2009

January 13, 2009: The North Korean Foreign Ministry issues a statement insisting that verification activities for nuclear disarmament should be carried out reciprocally between North and South Korea. It states that “free field access should be ensured to verify the introduction and deployment of U.S. nukes in South Korea and details about their withdrawal,” including verification procedures “on a regular basis” to prevent their reintroduction.

January 13-17, 2009: During a visit to Pyongyang, North Korean officials tell scholar Selig Harrison that the country’s declared stock of plutonium has “already been weaponized” and could not be inspected. Harrison relays North Korea’s claims in congressional testimony on February 12.

January 15-19, 2009: Hwang Joon-kook, South Korean deputy six-party talks negotiator, travels to North Korea to discuss Seoul’s potential purchase of about 14,000 fresh nuclear fuel rods previously produced at the Yongbyon complex. South Korean officials later indicate that Pyongyang demanded an exorbitant amount for the fuel and no deal was made.

February 3, 2009: Quoting unnamed South Korean officials, South Korea’s Yonhap newspaper reports that North Korea is preparing to test-launch its Taepo Dong 2 missile. Speculation about such a launch increases in the following days.

February 20, 2009: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton names Ambassador Stephen Bosworth to serve as U.S. special representative for North Korea policy.

February 24, 2009: KCNA states that “preparations for launching [an] experimental communications satellite...are now making brisk headway.” The United States, Japan, and South Korea later warn North Korea that its planned satellite launch would be in violation of a UN Security Council resolution 1718 and indicate that the council would consider the issue for further action, should North Korea go through with the launch.

March 11, 2009: North Korean authorities inform the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization that they will launch a satellite launch vehicle between April 4-8. North Korea provides these agencies with information regarding expected “dangerous area coordinates” where two of the rocket’s three stages are expected to fall.

March 13, 2009: South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan tells reporters that South Korea may need to review the possibility of formally joining the Proliferation Security Initiative in response to the upcoming North Korean rocket launch.

April 5, 2009: North Korea launches the three-stage Unha-2 rocket, widely believed to be a modified version of its long range Taepo Dong-2 ballistic missile. Although North Korea claims the rocket placed a satellite into orbit, U.S. Northern Command reports that the first stage landed in the Sea of Japan, and that the remaining stages, along with the payload fell into the Pacific Ocean.

April 13, 2009: The UN Security Council issues a presidential statement condemning North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch, and declaring it “in contravention of Security Council resolution 1718.” The statement also calls for strengthening the punitive measures under that resolution.

April 14, 2009: In response to UN Security Council statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry indicates that Pyongyang is withdrawing from the six-party talks and “will no longer be bound” by any of its agreements. North Korea also says that it will reverse steps taken to disable its nuclear facilities under six-party agreements in 2007 and will “fully reprocess” the 8,000 spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor in order to extract plutonium for nuclear weapons.

April 16, 2009: North Korea ejects IAEA and U.S. monitors from the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

April 24, 2009: The UN Security Council places financial restrictions on three North Korean firms believed to be participating in proliferation: Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., Tanchon Commercial Bank, and Korea Ryongbong General Corp.

May 25, 2009: North Korea conducts its second underground nuclear test a few kilometers from its 2006 test site near the village of P’unggye. Following the test North Korea announces that “the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in furthering increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology.” Early yield estimates range from 2-8 kilotons, although the Russian Defense Ministry initially suggests a yield of 15-20 kilotons.

The UN Security Council convenes an emergency meeting and releases a presidential statement condemning the test as a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1718. The council also announces that it will meet to pass a new resolution dealing with the test.

May 26, 2009: South Korea officially announces that it will participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative.

May 27, 2009: KCNA carries a statement indicating that Pyongyang considers Seoul’s participation in PSI to be an act of war and that North Korea’s Korean People’s Army will no longer be bound by the 1953 Armistice Agreement which brought an end to hostilities during the Korean War.

June 12, 2009: In response to North Korea’s May 25 nuclear test, the UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1874, which expands sanctions against Pyongyang. The resolution intensified inspection regime to prevent proliferation to and from North Korea, calls for enhanced financial restrictions against North Korea and North Korean firms, a nearly comprehensive arms embargo on the country, and strengthened council oversight over the implementation of the resolution. It also bars North Korea from carrying out any further missile tests.

June 13, 2009: The North Korean Foreign ministry issues a statement outlining “countermeasures” Pyongyang would take in response to UNSC Resolution 1874.  The measures included weaponizing all newly separated plutonium from the spent fuel from its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, continuing to develop a uranium enrichment capability, and responding militarily to any blockade.

July 16, 2009: The UN Security Council places 10 North Korean entities linked to the countries missile and nuclear program on the list of sanctioned organizations and people.

August 4, 2009: Former President Bill Clinton visits North Korea in order to secure the release of two U.S. journalists who were accused of spying, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

August 5, 2009: The state-run Korean Central News Agency issues a statement saying that former President Bill Clinton’s August 4 visit, to secure the release of two U.S. journalists, will help build “bilateral confidence.”

August 10, 2009: Indian police tell reporters that they detained and inspected the North Korean ship MV Mu San but did not discover any radioactive materials.

August 12, 2009: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appoints an eight-person panel of experts to the UN Security Council’s 1718 committee to assess the implementation of the sanctions on North Korea in accordance with Resolution 1874.

September 11, 2009: State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley tells reporters that the United States is “prepared to enter into a bilateral discussion with North Korea” as a precursor to resuming the six-party talks.

October 5, 2009: Xinhua News Agency reports that Kim Jong-Il informed Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that Pyongyang was ready to return to multilateral talks provided bilateral talks with the United States yielded a favorable result.

October 20, 2009: Ian Kelly, State Department spokesman, tells reporters that North Korea issued a standing invitation for Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, to visit Pyongyang.

November 3, 2009: KCNA reports that North Korea has reprocessed the last 8,000 fuel rods from the Yongbyon reactor.

November 9, 2009: P. J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, tells reporters that Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth will lead a group to Pyongyang for direct talks with the North Korean government.

November 19, 2009: At a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, President Obama says that the United States and South Korea are committed to pursuing “concrete” action on Pyongyang’s part to roll back its nuclear program.

December 8-10, 2009: Officials for the Obama administration hold their first senior-level meetings with the North Korean government in Pyongyang. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth leads to delegation to Pyongyang, where he delivers a letter from President Obama to Kim Jong-Il.

December 12, 2009: Authorities in Thailand, acting on a tip from the United States, seize 35 tons of weapons from a North Korean plane that made an unscheduled landing in Bangkok. According to the Thai government, the plane was heading to the Middle East.

2010

January 11, 2010: The North Korean Foreign Ministry issues a statement suggesting talks begin on replacing the 1953 ceasefire with a peace treaty.

January 24, 2010: Pyongyang threatens war with South Korea in response to Seoul’s statement that it would invade North Korea if there was the threat of a nuclear strike.

 

February 9, 2010: Xinhua News Agency reports that Kim Jong Il informed Chinese authorities that Pyongyang is still committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

February 12, 2010: UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lyn Pascoe tells reporters that North Korea “are not eager” to resume the six-party talks.

March 26, 2010: The South Korean patrol ship Cheonan is sunk near the South Korean-North Korean maritime border.

April 14, 2010: Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, tells reporters that the United States supports South Korea’s decision to stop engagement with North Korea until after the Cheonan sinking incident is resolved.

April 19, 2010: Yu Myung-hwan, South Korea’s Foreign Minister, says that talks with North Korea will not occur “for some time” if his government uncovers evidence that North Korea was involved in the Cheonan’s sinking.

April 21, 2010: North Korean state media reports that Pyongyang issued a memorandum stating that the country will be party to nonproliferation and disarmament agreements “on an equal footing with other nuclear weapons states.”

April 25, 2010: During a press conference, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young says that one of the most likely causes of the Cheonan’s sinking is a torpedo. North Korea denies any involvement in the incident.

May 20, 2010: The multinational Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group (JIG) releases its findings regarding the March 26 sinking of the ROKS Cheonan. The JIG concludes that North Korea was responsible for firing the torpedo that sank the South Korean ship.

May 20, 2010: South Korea makes a formal accusation against North Korea for sinking the South Korean ship the Cheonan with a torpedo attack.

May 20, 2010: North Korea denies involvement in the Cheonan sinking, and issues a statement saying that any punishment will be met with “various forms of tough measures.”

May 24, 2010: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak says that South Korea will sever almost all trade with Pyongyang in response to North Korea’s sinking of the ROKS Cheonan.

May 25, 2010: North Korea says that it will cut all links to South Korea in response to Seoul’s accusation that Pyongyang was responsible for sinking the ship Cheonan.

July 21, 2010: The United States imposes new sanctions against Pyongyang for its involvement in the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan.

July 25, 2010: The United States and South Korea begin a four-day joint military exercise in the Sea of Japan as a show of force in response to the Cheonan incident.

August 25, 2010: Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Pyongyang on a goodwill mission to bring home U.S. citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was arrested after entering North Korea from China.

August 30, 2010: President Obama signs an executive order that increases financial restrictions against North Korea. The Department of Treasury also announces that it has sanctioned eight North Korean entities for involvement in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

September 15, 2010: In an op-ed published in the New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter writes that during his August visit he received “clear, strong signals” that North Korea wants to restart negotiations.

September 15, 2010: Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, tells reporters that it will be a slow road to resuming six-party talks with North Korea and the talks will only occur after “specific and concrete” actions by Pyongyang.

September 28, 2010: The ruling Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) convened its third Conference in Pyongyang, the first such gathering in 44 years. The conference entailed a number of leadership changes, including the appointment of Kim Jong Il’s third son, Kim Jong Eun, as a Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

November 12, 2010: North Korea reveals that it has constructed a 2,000-centrifuge uranium enrichment facility to a visiting team of North Korea specialists, including former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker. North Korean officials claim that the facility will produce LEU for an LWR which North Korea also reveals is under construction. Pyongyang also admits for the first time that it can produce uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the feedstock for uranium enrichment, confirming long-held suspicions about the presence of such a capability. The construction of the LWR is slated for 2012, the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, but in a Nov. 20 trip report, Hecker expresses doubts about that timeline. The enrichment plant is housed in the former fuel fabrication building for the graphite-moderated reactors at Yongbyon, and the LWR is being constructed at the former site of the 5 megawatt reactor's cooling tower.

November 23, 2010: North Korea fires artillery rounds at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, 200 of which hit the island killing two soldiers and injuring seventeen others. Three civilians were also hurt in the attack. South Korea returned fire and scrambled combat aircraft in the area.

November 29, 2010: In response to the Yeonpyeong shelling, China calls for an emergency session of the six-party talks to “exchange views on major issues of concern”.

December 6, 2010: The United States, Japan, and South Korea reject China’s call for an emergency session of six-party talks, maintaining that North-South relations must improve before multilateral discussions can continue.

2011

February 16, 2011: In Senate testimony, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that North Korea likely has additional undeclared uranium enrichment facilities beyond the facility first revealed in November of 2010.

February 28, 2011: U.S. and South Korean forces conduct large-scale joint military exercises. North Korea threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” in response to the exercises, which U.S. officials claim was planned long in advance of the recent peak in tensions.

March 15, 2011: North Korea tells a visiting Russian official that it is willing to return to six-party talks and to talk about its uranium-enrichment activities.

March 17, 2011: South Korea rejects the latest North Korean offer, calling for actions to show the sincerity of North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization before multilateral talks can begin again.

April 18, 2011: China proposes three-step revitalization of multilateral talks, beginning with bilateral talks between North and South Korea, followed by similar talks between the United States and North Korea, and, finally, a resumption of the six-party discussions.

April 18, 2011: U.S. President Barack Obama issues an executive order reaffirming a ban on the import of goods, services, and technologies from North Korea.

April 26, 2011: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visits Pyongyang, accompanied by three other former heads of state, in a bid to revitalize negotiations.

May 9, 2011: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak introduces the possibility of inviting North Korea to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, on the condition that the North commits to giving up nuclear weapons. A North Korean spokesperson rejected the precondition, stating that denuclearization was an attempt by the South to open the way for an invasion.

June 13, 2011: U.S. warship forces a North Korean freight vessel to turn back off the coast of China. The vessel was believed to be carrying a shipment of missile components to Burma. The North Korean ship refused to be inspected, but voluntarily reversed course after being shadowed by the U.S. destroyer.

July 22, 2011: Wi Sung-lac, the South Korean envoy to the six-party talks, met with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Bali as part of efforts to restart dialog regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

July 24, 2011: The foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea, and the United States issue a statement welcoming the discussion that took place during the North-South meeting and saying that it “should be a ­sustained process going forward.”

July 28-29, 2011: U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth and North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan meet in New York, as part of efforts to revive multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. This marked the first high-level meeting between the United States and North Korea in nearly two years, and the United States reportedly reiterated its willingness to restart negotiations if North Korea displayed committed itself to being a constructive partner in the negotiation process.

August 1, 2011: A North Korean Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency expressesPyongyang’s interest in resuming multilateral talks with the United States “at an early date.”

August 24, 2011: After a meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang says that it would be willing to observe a moratorium on the production and testing of nuclear weapons and missiles in the context of resumed talks.

September 24, 2011: During a diplomatic trip to China, North Korea Prime Minister Choe Yong Rim reiterates the position Kim Jong Il expressed to Russia a month earlier, telling China’s top officials that Pyongyang remained willing to consider a moratorium on nuclear testing in the context of the 6 party talks.

October 24-25, 2011: The United States and North Korea hold a round of talks in Geneva on steps to resume the six-party process. Ambassador Glyn Davies takes over for Ambassador Stephen Bosworth as the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy.

December 17, 2011: After holding power for 17 years, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies.  He is succeeded by his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be about 28 years old.

December 29, 2011: Kim Jong Un is formally declared North Korea’s new leader.

2012

February 29, 2012: Following a Feb. 23-24 meeting between the United States and North Korea in Beijing, the two countries announce in separate statements an agreement by North Korea to suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant, invite IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension, and implement moratoriums on nuclear and long-range missile tests.  The United States says that it would provide North Korea 240,000 metric tons of food aid under strict monitoring.

March 16, 2012: North Korea announces it will launch a satellite in mid-April to celebrate the centennial birthdate of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung. The United States says that the launch would violate a Feb. 29 agreement in which North Korea pledged not to launch any long-range missiles and would undermine Pyongyang’s credibility regarding the monitoring of food aid and other commitments.

March 29, 2012: Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Peter Lavoy tells the House Armed Services Committee that the United States has suspended arrangements to deliver food aid to North Korea under a Feb. 29 agreement due to the North’s announced satellite launch.

April 13, 2012: North Korea attempts to launch a weather satellite using the Unha-3, a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket, from its Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the southwest corner of the country. During the first stage, after approximately 90 seconds, the rocket falls apart after veering slightly east from its intended course.  The first stage appeared to be comprised of a cluster of four Nodong medium-range ballistic missiles engines. The second stage, which appeared to be based on a BM-25 Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile did not ignite. It is unclear what caused the rocket launch to fail. Analysts speculate that there may have been a structural failure in the second stage, or that not all four of the engines in the first stage fired correctly. North Korea admits that the launch is a failure, which it did not do after the April 2009 launch, when the North Korean public was told that the satellite successfully entered orbit. The US officially halts its plans to send food aid to North Korea.

April 15, 2012: In a parade honoring the 100th birthday of North Korea founder Kim Il-Sung, North Korea reveals six road-mobile ICBMs in a military parade, the KN-08, although most experts conclude that the missiles are mock-ups based on imagery analysis that reveals significant abnormalities in the design features.

April 16, 2012: The United Nations Security Council condemns North Korea's satellite launch because of applicability to ballistic missile development, declaring that it acted in violation of Security Council Resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), and calls upon North Korea to comply with the provisions under the resolutions or face a tightening of sanctions.

April 19, 2012: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta tells the House Armed Services Committee that North Korea is getting "some help" from China on its missile development, but says that he does not know the extent of the assistance provided.

December 1, 2012: North Korea announces it will attempt another satellite launch using a long-range rocket between the dates of December 10-22. The rocket, also called the Unha-3, will be launched from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and follow the same trajectory as the April 13, 2012 launch. In response, the United States Department of State issues a statement saying that it would view a satellite launch as a "highly provocative act" that would threaten the peace and security of the region.

December 9, 2012: North Korea detects a deficiency in the first stage of the rocket, after it has been assembled at Sohae, and announces an extension of the launch window through December 29.

December 12, 2012: North Korea launches the Unha-3. Shortly after the launch the North Korean Central News Agency reports that the launch was a success and the satellite entered orbit. Japanese and South Korean officials confirm the launch and report that debris splashed down in the areas that North Korea indicated for the first and second stages. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also confirms the launch and says that an object appears to have achieved orbit.

2013

January 22, 2013: The United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 2087 in response to North Korea's Dec. 12 satellite launch, which used technology applicable to ballistic missiles in violation of resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009). Resolution 2087 strengthens and expands existing sanctions put in place by the earlier resolutions and freezes the assets of additional North Korean individuals and people.

January 24, 2013: The North Korean National Defense Commission announces its intentions to conduct another nuclear test and continue rocket launches.

February 12, 2013: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) detects seismic activity near North Korea's nuclear test site. CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Toth says that the activity has "explosion-like characteristics" and confirms that the activity comes from the area of the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. The South Korean Defense Ministry estimated the yield at 6-7 kilotons in the immediate aftermath and called for a UN Security Council Meeting.

March 7, 2013: The United Nations Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 2094 in response to North Korea's nuclear test on February 12, 2013. Resolution 2094 strengthens existing sanctions by expanding the scope of materials covered and adds additional financial sanctions, including blocking bulk cash transfers. Additional individuals and entities also are identified for asset freezes.

April 23, 2013: The CTBTO announces that its international monitoring system detected radioactive gases at stations in Japan and Russia. The CTBTO concludes that the gases were likely released during an event approximately 50 days prior to the April 9 detection, which coincides with North Korea's February 13 nuclear test.

April 2013: North Korea announces it plans to restart its heavy water reactor at Yongbyon.

July 15, 2013: A North Korean ship stopped in Panama is found to be carrying weapons from Cuba. The shipment included small arms, light weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, artillery ammunition, and MiG aircraft in violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from importing and exporting weaponry.

August 2013: Satellite imagery indicates that North Korea likely restarted a nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon site. The heavy water reactor in question produced the spent fuel from which North Korea separated weapons-usable plutonium for its nuclear arsenal. The reactor was shut down in 2007.

September 20, 2013: The IAEA General Conference adopts a resolution calling on North Korea to come into full compliance with the NPT and cooperate in the full implementation of the IAEA safeguards.

2014

March 8, 2014: China declares a “red line” on North Korea, saying it will not permit war or chaos on the Korean peninsula and that the only path to peace can only come through denuclearization.

March 21, 2014: North Korea test-fires 30 short-range rockets off its east coast, the latest in series of military actions condemned by South Korea.

March 26, 2014: North Korea test-fires two medium-range Rodang  (also known as No Dong) missiles into the Sea of Japan, violating UN sanctions. This is the first time in five years that North Korea has tested medium-range projectiles.

March 27, 2014: UN Security Council unanimously condemns North Korea for launching the midrange missiles, saying the launch violates council resolutions; China joins the council in criticizing the launch.

March 30, 2014: North Korea threatens to carry out a 'new form' of nuclear test, one year after its third nuclear test raised military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and prompted the UN to tighten sanctions. Pyongyang does not specify what it means by a 'new form,' but some speculate that it plans to make nuclear devices small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.

March 31, 2014: North Korea and South Korea fire hundreds of artillery shells across the disputed Western Sea border. While the shells fall harmlessly into the water, it is the most serious confrontation since an artillery duel in 2010. 

April 4, 2014: South Korea conducts its own missile test amid rising military threats from North Korea, successfully launching a newly developed ballistic missile capable of striking most of the North.

May 2, 2014: New commercial satellite imagery shows that North Korea is expanding its main rocket-launching site and testing engines of what is believed to be its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

June 27, 2014: North Korea fires three short-range projectiles off its east coast, days after it warned of retaliation against the release of American comedy film The Interview, which involves a plot to kill Kim Jong-un.

August 22, 2014: Satellite images indicate that North Korea is likely to have the ability to launch a longer-range rocket that can carry a heavier payload by the end of this year.

September 6, 2014: South Korean military says North Korea launched three short-range projectiles off its east coast.

October 2014: Analysis from the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins indicates that North Korea has a submarine at the Sinpo South Shipyard that may be a test bed for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. A test-stand, likely for exploring the possibilities of launching ballistic missiles from submarines or ships is also identified at the shipyard.

October 25, 2014: General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of US forces in South Korea, says he believes that North Korea can fit a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile, a process known as miniaturization.

November 20 2014: North Korea threatens to conduct a fourth nuclear test after the UN Human Rights Committee refers North Korea to the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses on November 19.

November 20, 2014: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announces that a North Korean special envoy told Russian President Vladimir Putin that North Korea is ready to resume the Six-Party Talks.

2015

January 2, 2015: The United States expands sanctions on North Korean entities and individuals, some of which are involved with North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

January 10, 2015: North Korea announces it offered to suspend nuclear testing in exchange for the United States and South Korea calling off annual joint-military exercises slated for spring 2015. The United States rejects the offer.

February 7, 2015: North Korea claims to test a new anti-ship missile. Kim Jong Un reportedly oversees the test. 

February 8, 2015: North Korea tests five short-range ballistic missiles from Wonsan. The missiles fly approximately 125 miles northeast into the ocean.

April 7, 2015: Adm William Gortney, head of U.S. North Command, tells reporters that North Korea's ICBM, the KN-08 is operational, despite never having been tested. Experts dispute the assessment.

May 9, 2015: North Korea successfully launches a ballistic missile, which it claims came from a submarine, that traveled about 150 meters. Experts believe the missile was launched from a submerged barge.

November 28, 2015: North Korea tests a ballistic missile from a submarine. The missile test fails.

December 8, 2015: The U.S. Treasury Department announces additional designations under Executive Orders 13551 and 13382. This includes the State Department designating North Korea's Strategic Rocket Force under 13382 for engaging in activities that contribute to delivery vehicles capable of carrying WMDs. Several banks involved with proliferation financing were also named as were three shipping companies.

December 21, 2015: North Korea tests another ballistic missile from a submarine. This test is reported as a success.

2016

January 6, 2016: North Korea announces it conducted a fourth nuclear weapons test, claiming to have detonated a hydrogen bomb for the first time. Monitoring stations from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization detect the seismic activity from the test. The type of device tested remains unclear, although experts doubt it was of a hydrogen bomb based on seismic evidence.

February 7, 2016: North Korea launches a long-range ballistic missile carrying what it has said is an earth observation satellite in defiance of United Nations sanctions barring it from using ballistic missile technology, drawing strong international condemnation from other governments which believe it will advance North Korea's military ballistic missile capabilities.

March 2, 2016: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2270 condemning the nuclear test and launch of early 2016, and demanding that North Korea not conduct further tests and immediately suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program. Resolution 2270 expands existing sanctions on North Korea by adding to the list of sanctioned individuals and entities, introducing new financial sanctions, and banning states from supplying aviation fuel and other specified minerals to North Korea. Resolution 2270 also introduces a requirement that UN member states inspect all cargo in transit to or from North Korea for illicit goods and arms.

April 15, 2016: North Korea test launches an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Mususdan, which was not known to have been flight-tested prior to the April 15 launch. The missile test is a failure. The UN Security Council issues a statement condemning the launch as a "clear violation" of existing Security Council resolutions. 

April 23, 2016: North Korea tests a KN-11 submarine launch ballistic missile. The missile flew approximately 30 kilometers before exploding, according to South Korean officials. 

April 24, 2016: The UN Security Council condemns North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missile test. 

April 28, 2016: North Korea tests two intermediate-range Musudan missiles. The tests are reported as a failure. 

May 6-9, 2016: North Korea holds its seventh Congress for its ruling Korean Workers' Party. During the Congress, Kim Jong Un describes North Korea's nuclear policy, saying North Korea "will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes, as it had already declared."

May 30, 2016: North Korea tests another intermediate-range Musudan missile. 

May 31, 2016: Satellite imagery analysis from 38 North assess that North Korea is "preparing to commence or has already begun” reprocessing nuclear material to separate additional plutonium for weapons use.

June 21, 2016: North Korea conducts two additional intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile tests, bringing the total number of Musudan tests to six since April. One of the tests is a partial success, as the missile flew an estimated 400 kilometers. The other explodes in midflight after approximately 150 kilometers.

June 22, 2016: The UN Security Council holds an emergency session to consider North Korea's missile tests. 

June 23, 2016: The Security Council releases a statement strongly condemning North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches and calls on member states to fully implement UN Security Council measures imposed by council resolutions. 

July 6, 2016: North Korea signals a willingness to resume negotiations on denuclearization and defines denuclearization in a statement by a government spokesperson.  

July 6, 2016: The US Department of Treasury announces designations on top North Korean officials, including the leader, Kim Jong Un, over ties to human rights abuses in North Korea. 

July 8, 2016: South Korea and the United States announce a decision to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery (THAAD), to South Korea. The missile defense system is "a defensive measure to ensure the security" of South Korea. THAAD is designed to intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles. 

August 3, 2016: North Korea fires a medium-range ballistic missile, the Nodong. The missile splashes down in Japan's economic exclusion zone, about 200 kilometers off of Japan's coast. 

August 24, 2016: North Korea tests an SLBM, the KN-11. The missile ejects from a submarine and flies approximately 500 kilometers on a lofted trajectory before splashing down in the ocean. The test appears to be a success. 

September 5, 2016: North Korea tests three medium-range ballistic missiles simultaneously. The missiles travel about 1,000 kilometers. 

September 9, 2016: North Korea conducts a fifth nuclear test. The seismic activity registers a magnitude of 5.0. 

October 14, 2016: North Korea conducts a failed test of what is believed to be the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile. The missile explodes soon after lift-off.

October 19, 2016: North Korea conducts a failed test of what is believed to be the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile. The missile explodes shortly after lift-off. This is the eighth test of the Musudan in 2016. Only the June launch was a success. 

October 25, 2016: U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that "the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause" and that nuclear weapons are North Korea's "ticket to survival." 

2017

February 12, 2017: North Korea tests a new ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. North Korean media calls the test a success. The missile flew about 500 kilometers at a lofted trajectory. Imagery suggests that the Pukguksong-2 is a solid-fueled, medium-range system based on a submarine-launched ballistic missile that North Korea has been testing for several years. The test utilized 'cold-launch' technology, meaning that the missile was ejected from its canister using compressed gas. The transport erector launcher used for the missile test was also domestically manufactured in North Korea. 

February 13, 2017: Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un, is killed in an airport in Malaysia. Tests reveal that he died from exposure to VX, a nerve agent. VX is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but North Korea has not signed or ratified that treaty. North Korea denies responsibility for the assassination. 

March 6, 2017: North Korea launches four ballistic missiles from a region near North Korea's border with China. The missiles fly about 1,000 kilometers and land in Japanese economic exclusion zone, about 300 kilometers off the coast Japan. 

April 5, 2017: North Korea tests a ballistic missile. The missile explodes shortly after the launch.

April 6, 2017: U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet and agree to cooperate more closely on achieving denuclearization of North Korea.  

April 15, 2017: North Korea celebrates the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, with a parade that displays several new ballistic missiles, including a new variant of the KN-08 and two canister systems. It is unclear if the canisters hold new ICBMs. 

April 16, 2017: North Korea tests a ballistic missile. The missile explodes shortly after the launch. 

April 17, 2017: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Susan Thornton, tells reporters about the U.S. policy toward North Korea, which officials describe as "maximum pressure and engagement." Thornton said that Washington is looking for a "tangible signal" from North Korea about its seriousness in engaging in talks and there is not a "specific precondition." 

April 26, 2017: The Trump Administration briefs Congress on its North Korea policy and releases a statement that calls for increasing sanctions pressure on North Korea and working with allies and regional partners on diplomacy. 

April 27, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says in an interview with NPR that the United States is open to direct talks with North Korea on the "right agenda." He says that denuclearization is still the goal for any agreement. 

April 28, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chairs a special meeting of the UN Security Council. In opening remarks, he says that North Korea must take "concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose" before talks can begin.

May 2, 2017: The THAAD missile defense system becomes operational in South Korea. 

May 9, 2017: Moon Jae-in is elected president of South Korea. Moon supports engagement with North Korea, but says talks cannot occur while Pyongyang continues to conduct nuclear and missile tests.  

May 14, 2017: North Korea tests the Hwasong-12 missile. The missile test is successful with a range of 4,800 kilometers on a standard trajectory, making it an intermediate-range ballistic missile. 

June 1, 2017: The United States imposes sanctions on individuals and entities linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

June 29-30, 2017: South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets with U.S. President Donald Trump at a summit in Washington, DC. The leaders pledge to continue working together on North Korea.  

July 3, 3017: North Korea tests its Hwasong-14 ballistic missile. Initial analysis of the test indicates that the range would have been about 6,700 kilometers at a standard trajectory, making it an ICBM. 

July 28, 2017: Japan, South Korea, and the United States report that North Korea tested an ICBM. Initial analysis of the test indicates a range of about 10,400km, not taking into account the rotation of the Earth, putting Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago within range. Russia claimed the missile was a medium-range ballistic missile.

August 5, 2017: The UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 2371, which imposes additional sanctions, including a complete ban on the export of coal, iron, seafood and lead, on North Korea in response to the July ICBM tests. See UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea for more information.

August 8, 2017: A leaked Defense Intelligence Agency report found that North Korea has produced miniaturized nuclear warheads for ballistic missile delivery, including for ICBMs.

On the same day, in response to North Korean criticism of the United States, President Trump told reporters that "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.... They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

August 9, 2017: In response to Trump's remarks, North Korean made a statement detailing a plan to test four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which would fly over Japan and land in the waters 30-40km from the coast of Guam.  

August 10, 2017: Trump told reporters that his previous threat of "fire and fury" should North Korea continue to threaten the United States may not have been "tough enough".

August 11, 2017: Trump tweeted: "military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"

August 14, 2017: Kim Jong Un declares that after receiving Guam strike plans, he will wait to see what Washington's next move is before making a decision.

August 25, 2017: North Korea tests three short-range ballistic missiles to the northeast, two of which flew about 155 miles, and one of which blew up immediately.

August 28, 2017: North Korea tests its Hwasong-12 missile, which flew over 2,700km and overflew Japan. In a statement the next day, President Trump claims "all options are on the table."

September 2, 2017: North Korea official state media releases photos of Kim Jong Un with what it claims is a thermonuclear weapon small enough to fit on an ICBM that could reach the continental United States.

September 3, 2017: North Korea conducts its sixth nuclear test, claiming the device tested was a hydrogen bomb and the test was a "perfect success." Seismic activity indicates that North Korea did conduct its largest nuclear test to date at 3:30 UTC. The initial estimate from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is that the seismic event's magnitude was around 5.8, occurred at a very shallow depth, and took place in the immediate vicinity of North Korea's Pyunggye-ri test site. Based on the seismic data, a number of experts assess the device had an explosive yield in excess of 100 kilotons TNT equivalent, which is significantly higher than North Korea's past nuclear tests. North Korea's claim that the device was a hydrogen bomb cannot be independently substantiated but the higher yield could be indicative of a boosted fission or thermonuclear device. The CTBTO's seismic estimate was later revised to 6.1 on September 7.

September 4, 2017: In remarks at an emergency UN Security Council briefing called in the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley states “being a nuclear power is not about using those terrible weapons to threaten others. Nuclear powers understand their responsibilities.”

September 11, 2017: The UN Security Council passes UNSCR 2375 imposing additional sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on textile exports and a cap on refined petroleum product imports. 

September 15, 2017: North Korea conducts a ballistic missile test. The test appears to be an intermediate-range Hwasong-12. The missile over flew Japan on a standard trajectory and reportedly traveled about 3,700 kilometers. 

September 19, 2017: In his first address to the UN General Assembly, President Trump threatens to “totally destroy North Korea,” if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, adding “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

September 21, 2017: President Trump issues an executive order imposing additional sanctions on entities that facilitate financial transactions and trade with North Korea.

September 21, 2017: Kim Jong Un responds to Trump’s UN speech with an unprecedented statement under his own name, calling Trump’s behavior “mentally deranged” and asserting that “a frightened dog barks louder.” Kim Jong Un further stated that Trump’s words “convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is the correct and that one I have to follow to the last.” He threatened, “exercising...a corresponding, highest level of hardline countermeasure in history” and declared he would make Trump “pay dearly for his speech.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho explains that the “highest level” action Kim Jong Un referred to in his statement could be a hydrogen bomb test in or over the Pacific Ocean, although he claimed he had “no idea what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un. Ri also says that Trump’s comments make “our rocket’s visit to the U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.”

September 23, 2017: U.S. B1-B strategic bombers fly near North Korea’s coast, the farthest north they have flown in the 21st century.

Trump tweets that North Korea “wouldn’t be around much longer” if he echoes “Little Rocket Man.”

September 25, 2017: At a press conference in New York, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho claims that Trump’s comments at the UN General Assembly and on Twitter constituted a declaration of war and that North Korea therefore has a right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers. 

October 19, 2017: Speaking at a Foundation for Defense and Democracy event, U.S. national security advisor H.R. McMaster rejects deterrence with North Korea, insisting on the country's complete denuclearization.

November 6, 2017: U.S. President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe meet during Trump's visit to Japan. According to a White House press release, the two leaders vowed to boost trilateral cooperation with South Korea to address the North Korean nuclear threat and Trump "underscored the commitment" of the United States to provide Japan with defensive equipment, including ballistic missile defenses.

November 7, 2017: President Trump delivers an address to the South Korean National Assembly, the first address by a U.S. President since President Clinton's in 1993. In his speech, Trump addresses Kim Jong Un directly, warning him not to underestimate the United States. Trump also states that in order to begin talks, Pyongyang would need to first take steps towards denuclearization. 

November 8, 2017: U.S. President Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-In. In a joint statement released after the summit, the two leaders emphasize that they will work together to counter the threat posed by North Korea and call on China to use its leverage to achieve a diplomatic solution.

November 20, 2017: President Trump officially designates North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. North Korea had been previously designated as a state sponsor of terrorism but was removed from the list in 2008.

November 29, 2017: North Korea launches an intercontinental ballistic missile from Pyongsong at 3:17 am local time, which flew for about 53 minutes, traveling 1000km on a lofted trajectory and landing in the Sea of Japan. The U.S. State Department releases a statement condemning the test but declaring that "diplomatic options remain open and viable, for now."

December 22, 2017: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2397, imposing additional sanctions on North Korea, including cutting refined petroleum imports by nearly 90 percent, limiting crude oil exports to 4 million barrels and mandating the expulsion of North Korean workers from other countries in two years or less.

2018

January 1, 2018: Kim Jong Un announces in his annual New Years address that North Korea's nuclear forces are "capable of thwarting and countering any nuclear threats from the United States" and says North Korea will mass produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for deployment. Kim offers to send a delegation to South Korea for the upcoming Olympics and calls for talks with Seoul to discuss the prospects of North Korea's participation.

January 2, 2018: South Korea says it is willing to meet with North Korea and proposes talks at Panmunjom. To discuss the possibility of talks, North Korea reestablishes a hotline between the two states that it had disconnected nearly two years ago after the Kaesong industrial complex was shut down.

January 4, 2018: President Trump and President Moon Jae-in agree to postpone the annual "Foal Eagle" U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises until after the Winter Olympics in South Korea in an effort to "de-conflict" the Games and "focus on ensuring the security" of the event.

January 9, 2018: Representatives from North and South Korea meet at Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone for the first inter-Korean talks since 2015. The two sides agree to reopen a military-to-military hotline that had been closed since February 2016 and North Korea announces it will send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, although it makes a "strong complaint" after South Korean representatives propose talks on denuclearization. 

January 16, 2018: Canada and the United States co-host a summit in Vancouver with foreign ministers from 20 countries that supported South Korea under the UN flag in the Korean War to discuss North Korea. Implementation and enforcement of existing UN sanctions on North Korea is a key focus of the meeting. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calls on Russian and China, neither of which was invited to attend, to better implement sanctions and emphasizes the importance of interdiction of illicit cargo. Tillerson reiterates the U.S. rejection of the Russian-Chinese "freeze-for-freeze" proposal and the position that North Korea must demonstrate a commitment to denuclearization before talks can begin.

February 8, 2018: North Korea holds a military parade where it displays a new solid-fuel short-range ballistic missile. Among other missiles, the parade also shows off two different intercontinental ballistic missile designs, the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15, both of which were tested in 2017. 

February 10, 2018: Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's sister, meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, and invites Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang for a summit meeting. Kim Yo Jong attended the Winter Olympics from February 9-11, once sitting a row behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. A scheduled meeting between Pence and Kim Yo Jong was reportedly cancelled when Kim Yo Jong pulled out at the last minute, citing new U.S. sanctions and Pence's meeting with North Korean defectors.

March 5, 2018: Two top aides of South Korean President Moon Jae-in meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Chung Eui-yong, Moon's national security advisor, and Suh Hoon, South Korean director of the National Intelligence Service, are the first South Korean envoys sent to North Korea in 11 years.

March 6, 2018: South Korean officials report that North Korea "expressed its willingness to begin earnest negotiations with the U.S. to discuss denuclearization issues," as long as its security is guaranteed as part of a five-point agreement that Kim Jong Un and two South Korean envoys reached during their visit to North Korea. The two countries reportedly also agree on a North-South Korean summit at the end of April, establishing a hotline between President Moon and Kim, that North Korea would not conduct missile tests during U.S.-North Korean talks and that North Korea would not use nuclear or conventional weapons against South Korea.

March 8, 2018: South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong briefs senior White House officials and President Trump on the high-level discussions between North Korean and South Korean officials in Pyongyang just days earlier, including the commitments made by Kim Jong Un not to conduct nuclear or ballistic missile test while talks with the United States take place. From the White House lawn following his meeting with Trump, Chung Eui-yong announces that Trump accepted Kim Jong Un's invitation to "meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization." The meeting would be the first between a sitting U.S. President and a North Korean leader. U.S. officials clarified that evening that talks would take place at a place and time to be determined and that "in the meantime all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain."

March 25-28, 2018: Kim Jong Un visits Beijing, meeting with President Xi Jinping, in his first trip outside of North Korea since taking power in 2011 and his first meeting with another head of state.

April 17-18, 2018: U.S. President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet in their third major summit. According to a White House statement, "President Trump and Prime Minister Abe confirmed their commitment to achieving the permanent and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. They also reaffirmed that North Korea needs to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. President Trump and Prime Minister Abe underscored that the global maximum pressure campaign will continue until North Korea denuclearizes." 

April 18, 2018: The Washington Post reports that CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in early April. President Trump affirmed the meeting took place in a tweet: "Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

April 20, 2018: A telephone hotline is established between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time since the division of the peninsula. The first call between the two leaders is expected before their April 27 summit. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declares that he will suspend nuclear and missile tests starting on April 21 and that he will shut down the Punggye-ri test site where the previous six nuclear tests were conducted.

April 27, 2018: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in meet in Panmunjom on the border of North and South Korea in the first high-level summit between Kim and Moon and the third ever meeting of North and South Korean leaders. Kim and Moon issue a joint declaration, including agreements to facilitate "groundbreaking advancement" in inter-Korean relations, "to make joint efforts to practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean peninsula," and to cooperate to "establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula."

May 8, 2018: Kim Jong Un meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the second time in two months, this time in Dalian, China. Chinese state media reports that Kim Jong Un says that North Korea hopes relevant parties can adopt step-by-step and synchronized measures to advance the process of political settlement and eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

President Trump announces that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un in preparation for the U.S.-North Korean summit.

May 9, 2018: North Korea releases three American detainees, Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak Sog. 

May 15, 2018: North Korea cancels talks with South Korea scheduled for the next day and threatened to cancel the Trump-Kim summit, citing discontent with U.S.-South Korean joint military drills known as Max Thunder and indignation with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton's remarks suggesting that North Korean denuclearization follow the example of Libya

May 22, 2018: South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets with U.S. President Trump to discuss trade between the two countries and the upcoming U.S.-North Korean summit on June 12. 

May 23, 2018: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In response to a question, he states that the Trump administration's model for North Korean disarmament is "rapid denuclearization, total and complete that won't be extended over time."

May 24, 2018: North Korea reports that it destroyed its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri, setting off explosions to destroy the north, west and south portals to tunnels that could have been used to test nuclear weapons. It is not clear if North Korea completely destroyed the long-abandoned east portal. No nuclear experts were granted access to verify the destruction of the test site. North Korea did transport several international journalists to observe the explosions from a distance. 

In a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Trump cancels the U.S.-North Korean summit scheduled for June 12 in response to "tremendous anger and hostility" displayed by North Korea in a statement the previous day. "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call or write," Trump wrote.

May 25, 2018: In response to Trump's letter, Kim Kye Gwan, North Korean first minister of foreign affairs, states that North Korea "has the intent to sit with the U.S. side.. regardless of ways at any time."

May 26, 2018: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet unexpectedly for a second time in Panmunjom. The two sides agree to host high-level inter-Korean talks on June 1, to follow with talks between military authorities to reduce tensions and between the Red Cross to push forward scheduled family reunions, to accelerate the April 27 Panmunjom declaration and to ensure that the June 12 U.S.-North Korean summit still goes ahead. 

May 27, 2018: U.S. officials travel to North Korea to prepare for a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

May 31, 2018: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with North Korean General Kim Yong Chol in New York to discuss President Trump's expected summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "In my conversations with Chairman Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and today with Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol, I have been very clear that President Trump and the United States objective is very consistent and well known: the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. President Trump has also made it clear that if Kim Jong-un denuclearizes, there is a brighter path for North Korea," Pompeo tells the press. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. Lavrov expresses support for a phased lifting of sanctions on North Korea in return for steps toward denuclearization and Kim states he is "always ready" to negotiate with Russia. 

June 1, 2018: North Korean General Kim Yong Chol meets with President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo at the White House and delivers a letter to President Trump from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Following the meeting, President Trump announces that the summit with North Korea will take place as originally scheduled on June 12 in Singapore and that it will be the beginning of a "process."

June 12, 2018: U.S. President Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore at the Capella hotel in the first summit between the sitting leaders of the two countries. Trump and Kim sign a joint declaration agreeing to "establish new US-DPRK relations," "build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula" and recover POW/MIA remains. Kim also committed to "work toward complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula" and Trump committed to provide security guarantees for North Korea. 

In a press conference following the summit, Trump also announced other commitments he and Kim had agreed to which were not included in the joint statement, including the cancellation of U.S.-South Korean military exercises. 

June 19-20, 2018: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Kim's third visit to China since March, to discuss Kim's summit with Trump. 

July 5-7, 2018: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Pyongyang and meets with Kim Yong Chol "to continue consultations and implement the forward progress" from the June 12 U.S.-North Korean summit. Pompeo characterized the talks as "productive" and "good-faith negotiations" but the North Korean Foreign Ministry released a statement after the visit characterizing U.S. proposals as "unilateral and robber-like denuclearization demands," further claiming that they "go against the spirit of the North-U.S. summit meeting."

July 13, 2018: The Diplomat, in collaboration with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey reports that it has discovered the site of a secret North Korean uranium enrichment site, named Kangson by U.S. intelligence. The existence of a second North Korean clandestine uranium enrichment site was first publicly reported in a May 2018 Washington Post article. According to the Diplomat, a U.S. government source confirmed that the identified site corresponded to the one U.S. intelligence has named Kangson and has been monitoring for more than ten years.

July 20, 2018: China and Russia block a U.S. request that the UN Security Council committee monitoring North Korea's compliance with UN sanctions send a letter stating that North Korea is violating a quota on refined petroleum products. The quota was established by a December 2017 UN Security Council resolution.

July 25, 2018: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirms that North Korea is dismantling a missile launch facility and continues to produce fissile material in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

July 27, 2018: The remains of 55 American servicemen who died during the Korean War are flown out of North Korea to be returned to the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to return the remains of American soldiers during the June 12 Singapore Summit.

August 15, 2018: In a speech commemorating South Korean National Liberation Day, President Moon Jae-in says that when he meets with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in September, the two leaders will "take an audacious step to proceed toward the declaration of an end to the Korean War and the signing of a peace treaty as well as the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." He adds that "inter-Korean relations is the driving force behind denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Once peace and denuclearization have been established, Moon says that economic cooperation between the two Koreas, including an inter-Korean rail and joint economic zones, can be pursued "in earnest."

August 20, 2018: The International Atomic Energy Agency's annual report on the application of safeguards in North Korea states that the "continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear programme and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern."

August 23, 2018: Stephen Biegun, former vice president of international government affairs for the Ford Motor Company, is appointed as the State Department's special representative for North Korea. Biegun will "direct U.S. policy towards North Korea and lead... efforts to achieve President Trump's goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea." Pompeo also announces that he and Biegun will travel to North Korea the following week.

August 24, 2018: President Trump calls off Secretary of State Pompeo's scheduled trip to Pyongyang with new Special Representative Biegun, citing insufficient progress on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a tweet. Earlier that morning, Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's Workers' Party Central Committee, sends an angry letter to Pompeo, convincing him and Trump that the visit is not likely to succeed, according to Washington Post reporting.

September 9, 2018: North Korea holds a military parade on the 70th anniversary of its founding but does not display any long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, as it has in many recent parades. Li Zhanshu, a high-ranking official in the Chinese Communist Party, watches the parade with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Li attends as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

September 14, 2018: North and South Korea open their first joint liaison office in Kaesong, establishing a new full-time person-to-person channel between the two countries.

September 18-20, 2018: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in meet for their third summit, this time in Pyeongyang.

On September 19, the two leaders agree to the Pyeongyang Joint Declaration, which includes agreements to expand the "cessation of military hostilities" between the two countries, advance economic, humanitarian and cultural cooperation and exchanges, pursue complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and for Kim to visit Seoul "at an early date." North Korea committed to dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of international experts and to take additional steps, like the dismantling of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, if the United States "takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement." 

An agreement on the "implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain" is adopted as an annex to the Pyeongyang Joint Declaration. The annex includes commitments for North and South Korea to establish no-fly zones along the border, halt military drills close to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two countries and dismantle several guard posts inside the DMZ.

* Entry dates for the imposition of sanctions indicate the dates the sanctions took effect.

Updated by Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

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Posted: September 19, 2018

North Korea’s Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

Why Pyongyang’s chemical weapons also require attention.


September 2018
By Cristina Varriale

Although its nuclear and missile programs are frequently in the headlines, North Korea’s other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and their role in Pyongyang’s security strategies draw less discussion and analysis.

A South Korean rescue team wearing chemical protective suits participates in an anti-terror drill as part of a disaster management exercise at the COEX shopping and exhibition center in Seoul on May 20, 2016. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)Expanding analysis to include a consideration of North Korea’s chemical weapons capabilities allows for a better understanding of the doctrine around its unconventional weapons and thus for development of more tailored policies to deal with the WMD threats and risks they pose.

North Korea has never confirmed publicly that it maintains a chemical weapons stockpile, although the U.S. government and others have long assessed that Pyongyang has a variety of lethal chemical agents and related missile and artillery delivery systems. In 1989, Pyongyang signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare but does not ban production or stockpiling. North Korea signed that accord with reservations, outlining its right to dismiss the protocol in the case of another party that violates the use prohibition. North Korea has not joined the more comprehensive 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which extends the prohibition to include production and stockpiling.

In considering North Korea’s strategic drivers, three main elements are common throughout its history: deterrence and reunification, which are recognized as supporting the principal goal of protecting national sovereignty, and survival.1 There has been much debate on the role of nuclear weapons in this context but much less focus on the role of chemical weapons.

By developing a long-range nuclear capability and maintaining regional WMD assets, Pyongyang is able to take advantage of a difference between the United States and South Korea in calculation of strategic risks. A key South Korean security concern, as it relates to North Korea, is the use of conventional and WMD capabilities with regional ranges. U.S. officials, as North Korea’s long-range missile program develops, will have an increasing interest in protecting the continental United States, which may include a lessened desire to retaliate on behalf of South Korea. Such a divergence of strategic interests could weaken the U.S.-South Korean alliance and thus reduce the adversarial risk to Pyongyang, a motivation for North Korea to pursue capabilities that can achieve this result.

North Korea’s strategic goals have also been shaped by founder Kim Il Sung’s vision of leadership over a unified Korea and the use of military force to achieve it.2 This thinking is often used to understand the role of nuclear weapons under Kim Jong Un, the late Kim’s now-ruling grandson. Such a goal could be pursued through military actions or coercion under the shadow of nuclear weapons. Although the latter is not explicitly referenced in current North Korean discourse,3 it should not be assumed to be absent from the regime’s internal thinking.

Yet, the goal of reunification in the South Korean soldiers take part in a chemical weapons drill during a military exercise in Seoul on July 28, 2010. (Photo: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images)short term likely has declined. The same may be true of the long-term vision, although reunification remains imbedded in North Korea’s Constitution and the North Korean psyche. At the same time, given the economic and military buildup in South Korea and increased U.S. military presence in the region, the North’s worry about a potential territorial attack has increased, likely elevating deterrence for regime survival above reunification. This does not equate to a renunciation of reunification but does suggest a shift in strategic priorities, especially in the short to medium term, that prioritizes nuclear weapons.

The two overarching elements of North Korean strategic thinking—deterrence and reunification—are used to support the enduring goal of regime survival. Beyond repelling external efforts to remove the regime, it also encompasses the elimination of internal threats, economic development, and, secondarily, reunification.4 The three strategic priorities are interlinked; deterring adversaries helps preserve the regime, which is key for any possibility of reunification.

These strategic motivations have driven consecutive North Korean leaders to pursue asymmetric military assets. Given the great asymmetric value of nuclear weapons in relation to conventional military threats on the peninsula and the option of balancing perceived nuclear threats from the United States, these capabilities have visibly taken priority.

Understanding strategic goals in the context of North Korean priorities in the past, present, and future is important for understanding the role played by weapons of mass destruction. As the nuclear capability has advanced, it is worthwhile to consider what this means, if anything, for North Korea’s chemical weapons capabilities.

History of Chemical Weapons

Although North Korea’s chemical capabilities briefly hit the headlines in 2017 following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un, there has been concern for decades about North Korean chemical weapons efforts.

In 1961, Kim Il Sung’s “declaration of chemicalization” formally initiated a dual-use chemical industry in North Korea.5 The declaration came at a time when the North was attempting to recover from the Korean War, investing heavily in agricultural and industrial development,6 as well as seeking to expand military capabilities to support opportunities for reunification by force and to defend against similar attempts from the South.

By 1979, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment reported that North Korea had acquired a defensive chemical capability.7 This assessment coincided with a 1980 statement reportedly made by Kim Il Sung to the Korean Worker's Party Central Military Committee that “poison gas” would be effective for use in combat,8 boasting that North Korea had “succeeded in producing poisonous gas and bacterial weapons through our own efforts supported by Soviet scientists in the field.”9

Information on how such activities have continued to evolve is sparse. Assessments relating to the North’s chemical weapons stockpile suggest that Pyongyang has developed chemical capabilities across a spectrum—vesicants, nerve, cyanogen, and choking agents.10 Arguably the most publicly visible of these has been nerve agents, not only appearing in the Kim Jong Nam assassination but also featuring in Chinese media reports that suggested a detected leak of sarin.11 Defector testimonies have also included accounts of prisoners being victims of chemical testing.12 Such defector accounts should be read with caution in terms of reliability, but not disregarded.

Amid evidence that chemical weapons capability exists, stockpile estimates vary, with a range of 2,000 to 5,000 tons of agent. A 2009 report noted that there had been no indication of growing storage facilities that would be necessary in the case of an expanding chemical arsenal and estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 tons of agent would be sufficient to significantly impact a war with the South.13 The South Korean Ministry of National Defense has cited similar stockpile estimates since 2008, with a relatively consistent but broad range of 2,500 to 5,000 tons of agent.14 It is widely assumed that North Korea can deliver chemical weapons via a range of systems, including artillery, multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, and aircraft.

Although there is little doubt that North Korea has produced chemical weapons, a comprehensive and public understanding of the current condition of inventories and infrastructure is limited, with some analysts citing the capability as aging and rudimentary.

In his 2015 New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un highlighted the chemical industry as an area of potential for North Korean growth and independence. In 2017 and 2018, he referenced the chemical industry as successful and expanding. Given the dual-use nature of chemical production, assessing the facilities for weapons production through open sources is challenging.

There is a widespread belief that North Korea was behind the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport by attackers using VX, an extremely potent nerve agent. The nature of the attack challenges the assumption that North Korea is technically limited to producing rudimentary unitary munitions; two perpetrators used cloths to smear a substance on Kim Jong Nam’s face. It is unclear whether both cloths contained the same substance, providing a double dose for increased lethality, but each cloth may have been dowsed with a corresponding binary agent. (With a binary agent, the two components become lethal only when combined.)

Nerve agents are especially sensitive to impurities and thus prone to instability. The higher the quality, the more stable and thus the longer the shelf life. Applying this to the Kim Jong Nam case, the agent used was produced relatively recently or was of a high quality. Either of these possibilities would refute claims that North Korea only possesses degraded or rudimentary chemical capabilities.

A recent U.S. Department of Defense report on North Korea states that although the investigation of the assassination is ongoing, evidence supporting North Korea’s role would demonstrate that North Korea has a chemical weapons stockpile from a long-standing chemical weapons program.15 This case alone cannot confirm whether this agent was syphoned from a military-scale program or stockpile or was produced in a small quantity for this specific act. The agent used may not have been produced via the same program that supports a broader military chemical weapons development. The assassination was likely orchestrated by special operations personnel, potentially requiring separate production of the nerve agent in a small quantity.

Role of Chemical Weapons

Despite the focus on the nuclear weapons program to strengthen deterrence and support regime survival, chemical weapons likely continue to have value for the Kim regime. Historically, chemical weapons most likely filled a deterrence gap prior to the development of an adequate nuclear capability.16 Some scholars have observed that the threat of U.S. nuclear use in the Korean War helped drive the desire for a chemical capability; although acquisition of nuclear weapons was probably a long-term aspiration for Kim Il Sung, chemical weapons were recognized as a weapon of mass destruction that could provide deterrence as well.17

With the Korean War still very much in recent memory, Kim Il Sung focused on bolstering the military capabilities necessary for reunification of the peninsula. There have been allegations that the United States during the war used biochemical weapons against the North. To be able at least to respond in kind to such capabilities in any future military conflict, the Kim Il Sung regime believed it would need to develop WMD capabilities to successfully reunify the peninsula. With the military alliance of the United States and South Korea developing at a rate that North Korea could not match conventionally, chemical weapons could have provided an appropriate asymmetric capability less costly than nuclear weapons and that could be developed quickly with help from allies such as the Soviet Union, China, and East Germany.

A key change came in the early 1990s, following the U.S. Operation Desert Storm against Iraq. Pyongyang likely concluded from observing that event that chemical weapons could not sufficiently deter U.S. military intervention, something only a nuclear arsenal could achieve. This shift has resulted in nuclear weapons becoming North Korea’s main tool of deterrence today.

Still, chemical weapons have not become redundant or irrelevant for North Korean deterrence or its strategic thinking more broadly. Such weapons contribute to asymmetric capabilities, especially early in a conflict where a move to nuclear weapons use might be too rapid an escalation, but asymmetric tactics are required for defensive protection or offensive gain.

It has been Kim Jong Un’s intention to strengthen the asymmetric strategy of North Korea,18 and chemical weapons continue to act as a conventional-force multiplier. Chemical weapons likely would be used to hinder the movement in war of the adversary’s conventional land forces. Despite much superior conventional strength, South Korean and U.S. armed forces would be hindered for three reasons. First, chemical weapons use could deny or delay access to key areas crucial for the forward movement of on-peninsula forces, as well as to key ports needed for incoming support. Second, it would slow hostile forces by forcing them to operate in chemical protection suits. Third, it would add complexity to the military engagement because it would be impossible to distinguish between incoming conventional and chemical warheads.

The deterrence role of chemical weapons persists given the uncertainty about North Korea’s military capabilities. The ambiguity can play to North Korea’s favor by complicating an adversary’s calculus. Chemical weapons continue to back up North Korea’s conventional capabilities and underpin the nuclear deterrent through increasing the risks associated with military action to overthrow the regime. By complicating how a military scenario on the Korean peninsula could play out, chemical weapons increase the risks associated with military action and contribute to calculus against this option, thus assisting in the preservation of the regime.

Further, chemical weapons have a role for the regime in sustaining international relationships and revenue generation. Maintaining a chemical program allows North Korea to retain marketable proliferation skills and assets. A recent notable example was the 2016 visit of a North Korean technical delegation to Syria. The visit included the transfer of special resistance valves and thermometers that are known for use in chemical weapons programs.19

Although this is likely a secondary benefit of chemical weapons capabilities, it brings added value and justification for maintaining chemical weapons even as the nuclear program has grown. Proliferation of chemical weapons-related equipment and know-how will continue to be a valuable asset for North Korea, particularly if the international norms against use of such weapons continue to erode, as seen in Syria.

Despite recent diplomatic developments, North Korea has not moved formally to rollback its nuclear capability. The prospect of complete North Korean nuclear disarmament seems implausible. For North Korea’s leadership, chemical weapons alone do not have a strong enough deterrent value to provide assurance of regime survival. Nuclear weapons have not made a military chemical weapons capability redundant; a military chemical weapons program will likely continue to be maintained at least as an insurance policy against attack by superior conventional forces.

Asymmetric Advantages

Arms control discussions that focus on just one of these capabilities might not be able to lead to the removal of other types of weapons of mass destruction. Given the differing but complimentary roles of chemical and nuclear capabilities, approaching North Korea with the idea of limiting or removing these capabilities together, as some U.S. officials have proposed,20 likely would not produce fruitful results. An approach to remove both or signal an intent to remove one and then the other without significant shifts in the security context would make North Korea reluctant to engage.

Even if the current dialogue around the nuclear program can produce tangible results in at least capping the nuclear program, the opportunity for including chemical weapons will be low. North Korea has consistently maintained that it does not possess a chemical weapons program and to shift to a position of acknowledgment and a willingness to limit these capabilities will only be possible with a dramatic shift in the security environment in which North Korea sees itself and as part of a much longer-term strategy.

To limit the threat from the possession of chemical weapons in the more immediate term, policymakers must focus on two main areas. First, a priority should be to continue to engage with North Korea to reduce hostilities, thus weakening the potential for military action on the peninsula. This is where risk reduction of chemical and nuclear weapons indirectly ties together. It is widely acknowledged that any conflict on the Korean peninsula would be devastating, but inclusion of chemical weapons use would have broad implications for the international nonuse norms that have been built since the opening for signature of the CWC. Making sure the nonuse norm does not have another arena for degradation will be vital.

Second, the international community should work to ensure the chemical norm does not further erode outside of the Korean peninsula and should attempt to restore it in light of events in Syria. Getting Pyongyang to agree and explicitly commit to no onward proliferation for chemical weapons is unlikely. If the premise is accepted that much of North Korea’s onward proliferation is driven economically at least in part, reinstating the norm against chemical weapons could help reduce the risks of North Korea’s chemical program by stemming the demand side of the equation. Recent initiatives to expand the scope of investigations by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be the start of the normative shift back toward nonuse.
 

ENDNOTES

1.  Victor D. Cha, “North Korea’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: Badges, Shields or Swords?” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 2 (2002): 214.

2. Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, U.S. Department of Defense, “North Korea Country Handbook,” MCIA-2630-NK-016-97, May 1997, p. 43.

3. Léonie Allard, Mathieu Duchâtel, and François Godement, “Pre-empting Defeat: In Search of North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine,” European Council on Foreign Relations, 2017, p. 5.

4. See Choi Kang and Kim Gibum, “A Thought on North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine,” The Korean Journal of Defence Analysis, Vol. 29, No. 4 (December 2017): 495-511; Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” North Korea’s Nuclear Futures Series, 2015, p. 8, https://www.38north.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/NKNF_Nuclear-Weapons-Strategy_Bermudez.pdf. See also Joel S. Wit and Sun Young Ahn, “North Korea’s Nuclear Futures: Technology and Strategy,” North Korea’s Nuclear Futures Series, 2015, https://38north.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/NKNF-NK-Nuclear-Futures-Wit-0215.pdf.

5. “North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs,” Asia Report, No. 167 (June 18, 2009), p. 5.

6. Bermudez, “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” p. 9.

7. “North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs,” p. 6.

8. Ibid., pp. 5–6. The germ weapons reference here refers to North Korea’s biological weapons program, although this capability is not being covered here.

9. “North Korean Security Challenges, A Net Assessment,” IISS Strategic Dossier, July 2011, p. 162.

10. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, “Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 July Through to 31 December 2006,” n.d., https://www.odni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Reports%20and%20Pubs/Acquisition_Technology_Report_030308.pdf; “Chemical Weapons Program,” Globalsecurity.org, n.d., https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/cw.htm; Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., “North Korea’s Chemical Warfare Capabilities,” 38 North, October 10, 2013, https://www.38north.org/2013/10/jbermudez101013/.

11. “China Detects Nerve Gas at Its North Korean Border,” The Epoch Times, October 10, 2009.

12. For example, see “Testimony of Ms. Soon Ok Lee,” June 21, 2002, https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/lee_testimony_06_21_02.pdf (before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration hearing titled “Examining the Plight of Refugees: The Case of North Korea”).

13. “North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs,” p. 7.

14. Although these estimates explicitly refer to chemical weapons stockpiles, the information may be skewed by the inclusion of biochemical capabilities.

15. U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Report to Congress,” 9-6009878, 2017.

16. Bermudez, “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” pp. 9–10; Wit and Ahn, “North Korea’s Nuclear Futures,” p. 11.

17. Bermudez, “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” p. 10.

18. Seong-Yong Park, “North Korea’s Military Policy Under the Kim Jong-un Regime,” Journal of Asian Public Policy, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2016): 71.

19. UN Security Council, S/2018/171, March 5, 2018.

20.  John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, floated that idea on a CBS “Face the Nation” broadcast July 1, 2018. Hyonhee Shin and Doina Chiacu, “U.S. Has Plan to Dismantle North Korea Nuclear Program Within a Year: Bolton,” Reuters, July 1, 2018.


Cristina Varriale is a research analyst in proliferation and nuclear policy at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.

Posted: September 1, 2018

U.S., North Korea at Odds Over Talks

The Trump administration seeks rapid steps toward denuclearization.


September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

With the United States and North Korea at odds over how negotiations should proceed, the next steps will be critical to the diplomatic process.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during an August 15 ceremony in Seoul marking the 73rd anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Moon said that his planned September visit to Pyongyang will be a “bold step” towards formally ending the decades-old war with the North. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at their Singapore summit, called for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and for “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the peninsula.

Yet, in failing to set out detailed steps or sequencing, the two leaders set the stage for misread signals and faulty expectations, as now seems to be the case. Both sides are showing some impatience with their diplomatic engagement, although it is unclear whether that is a bid for negotiating advantage or a danger sign from the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

Washington is seeking concrete action toward denuclearization by Pyongyang. North Korea complains that the United States is demanding unilateral disarmament while dragging its feet on steps to end the Korean War and build a peace regime on the peninsula. Trump told Reuters on Aug. 20 that he anticipates holding another meeting with Kim, but did not say when.                  

Before the June 12 summit, North Korea voluntarily announced a moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests and destroyed tunnels at a site used for nuclear testing. Since the summit, Pyongyang has begun dismantling a test stand used for satellite launches at a missile test site.

Pyongyang describes these actions as “practical denuclearization steps” that demonstrate North Korea’s goodwill and commitment to the process. But these actions have a limited impact, are quickly reversible, and have not been verified by on-site inspectors.

U.S. officials, including White House national security adviser John Bolton, have called on North Korea to do more. Bolton said the United States is still looking for “performance on denuclearization,” not rhetoric. In another interview, he said North Korea has not taken “effective steps” toward denuclearization.

Reporting on the negotiations, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s July visit to Pyongyang, suggests U.S. proposals may be asking for too much, too soon. Vox reported on Aug. 8 that Pompeo has repeatedly proposed that North Korea give up 60 to 70 percent of its nuclear arsenal within six to eight months.

Given the uncertainty about the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, it is unclear how the United States would verify that North Korea met such a target, even in the case that Pyongyang were to agree.

A North Korea Foreign Ministry statement Aug. 9, while not specifically mentioning the Pompeo proposal, denounced the “unilateral demand of denuclearization first” made by U.S. officials during a July visit to Pyongyang. The statement also asserted that North Korea had taken “practical denuclearization steps” but the United States had failed to deliver on other elements of the Singapore statement.

The Trump administration appears to prioritize getting a nuclear declaration from North Korea that provides information about the scope of North Korea’s nuclear program and activities. Such a disclosure is needed for verification although, given the loose talk of preventive strikes by members of the Trump administration, Pyongyang may fear that providing such a declaration so early in the process would amount to handing over a targeting list to the United States.

An Aug. 18 statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) called for “bold action” by Trump to break the “current deadlock.” KCNA said the lack of progress is “clearly attributable to the political scramble” in the United States, as “those opposed to dialogue” are trying to derail it with “a fiction” about secret North Korean nuclear facilities.

Some sites are well known, such as the Yongbyon facility where North Korea’s five-megawatt plutonium-production reactor is located, but evidence points toward additional uranium-enrichment facilities at undisclosed locations. Using open sources, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and The Diplomat publicly located in August what the United States suspects is a covert uranium-enrichment facility at Kangson.

Unsurprisingly, North Korea continues to produce fissile material, a fact confirmed by Pompeo at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 25.

Securing a verifiable halt in fissile material production would be a logical next step for the Trump administration. Not only would that prevent Pyongyang from further expanding its stockpile of weapons-usable materials, it would also test whether Kim will abandon his Jan. 1 call for North Korea to ramp up mass production of nuclear weapons and missiles.

While the Trump administration is pushing for additional steps on denuclearization, North Korea wants to see progress on formally ending the Korean War.

A KCNA statement on July 25 said that “adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in the light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations” between North Korea and the United States. The agency said that the issue “should have been settled long before,” given the Singapore summit and inter-Korean dialogue.

There are some indications that South Korean President Moon Jae-in intends to proceed toward ending the war, regardless of progress in U.S.-North Korean negotiations.

In an Aug. 15 speech, Moon said that, at the next inter-Korean summit, scheduled for September, the two sides will “take an audacious step to proceed toward the declaration of an end to the Korean War and the signing of a peace treaty, as well as the complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Moon said advances in inter-Korean relations will drive denuclearization.

North Korea also has lashed out against continued implementation of sanctions as poisoning the prospects for further talks. North Korea accused the United States of responding to its “practical steps” on denuclearization with “highly despicable actions,” including increased sanctions and hindering the activities of international aid organizations working in North Korea.

A KCNA statement on Aug. 10 called out enforcement of U.S. sanctions on North Korea as “beyond common sense and so outrageous” when Pyongyang has showed “sincere goodwill” by repatriating the remains of U.S. troops July 27 and shutting down its nuclear test site. The statement argued that sanctions are illegal and unlawful because Pyongyang has suspended the nuclear tests and missile launches that prompted UN Security Council sanctions.

The Security Council passed additional sanctions in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests, but the resolutions clearly require North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in a “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” manner. The resolutions also demand that North Korea return to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

China has supported North Korea’s bid to reduce sanctions pressure, and there are signs that other states are backing off enforcement of sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea may need to request waivers on certain sanctions to go forward with inter-Korean projects referenced in the Panmunjom Declaration reached by Kim and Moon at their first meeting in April. Moon said on Aug. 15 that he wants to reconnect the railroads between the two countries by the end of 2018.

Although Trump declared an end to the U.S. “maximum pressure” approach after the Singapore summit, U.S. officials have consistently maintained that sanctions will remain in place and be fully implemented pending denuclearization.

Posted: September 1, 2018

ACA Board Chair on Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

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Remarks by Thomas Countryman to the International Symposium for Peace in Nagasaki, Japan

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Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Remarks by Thomas Countryman
Chairman of the Arms Control Association
to the International Symposium for Peace 
Nagasaki, Japan
July 28, 2018

Introduction

Panelists discuss working toward sustainable peace at the International Symposium for Peace “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition” held on July 28 in Nagasaki. (Photo: Kengo Hiyoshi/Asahi Shimbun)Let me thank the organizers of today’s conference for bringing me again to Japan. In my current focus outside the government of the United States, continuing to push for real progress on nonproliferation and arms control measures, it's always a special pleasure to come to Japan. The Japanese role in leading the international diplomatic challenge to create the highest standards in arms control and nonproliferation is unparalleled. Not only as a partner of the United States but in its own leadership role, Japan has done much to create the modern nonproliferation regime that has greatly reduced but not yet eliminated the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

It is especially moving to be here in Nagasaki. Visiting the memorial yesterday, a sacred place, brought back to me what President Abraham Lincoln said at the site of the bloodiest battle America ever witnessed: that those who have fallen on this site “have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract”. I sensed on this spot what no book can convey: the enormous challenge and the risk that humanity continues to face in the presence of 15,000 nuclear weapons in this world. Here I want to commend the very special role the hibakusha have played in preserving vital lessons for the memory of humanity. For 70 years, they have spread the simple truth that a human being is not just a statistic. They will touch future generations long after their own has passed from this world. I wish that every American and every world leader would have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki as I have.

Current Challenges

It is much easier to talk about the challenges to nuclear disarmament than it is to describe a simple path to a world free of nuclear weapons. So let me dwell first on the current challenges that we face.

First, the two major nuclear powers, the United States and the Russian Federation, have passed a turning point in their nuclear doctrines and nuclear arsenals. After about 40 years of a steady decrease in the size and diversity of their nuclear arsenals and the mission that each assigned to their nuclear weapons, both Washington and Moscow have turned a corner towards expanding the size and variety of arsenals and the circumstances for their use.

U.S. 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The U.S. administration’s Nuclear Posture Review from this February is not a radical change from the previous nuclear posture but it is a significant change in direction. In calling for the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons, the United States is thinking more actively and – in my view - making more thinkable the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in the context of a conventional conflict. As so many have pointed out, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear war once that threshold has been crossed. “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon," George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's top diplomat, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in January. "You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there."

Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review describes with more specificity than before circumstances under which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons to encompass not only first use by an opponent but also a response to a devastating attack by cyber or other means. Just two years ago, the Obama administration considered carefully the possibility of proclaiming a no-first-use doctrine for U.S. nuclear weapons. That U.S. policy has now shifted towards a broader definition of possible first use is of deep concern to me.

Finally, I am most disappointed in the Nuclear Posture Review in that it effectively renounces the traditional leadership that the U.S has exercised on non-proliferation and arms control issues. It makes no mention of America’s binding legal obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue a reduction in arsenals. It makes no new proposals for how the U.S. will move forward in negotiations with Russia and others. And it defers any meaningful action until security conditions in the world have improved. This retreat from global leadership, whether in arms control, in climate policy or in free trade agreements is unworthy of a nation that claims to be a superpower.

Russia

As concerned as I am about the direction of U.S. policy, I am even more concerned about the continuing development by Russia of new weapons and new delivery methods. Russia seems driven by an exaggerated fear, in fact, a paranoia, about the future capabilities of U.S. missile defense. I call these fears exaggerated because I believe that missile defense can never provide an impenetrable shield. Russia is building not only new generations of ICBMs but even more dangerous weapons systems that seem to step out of the pages of a science fiction comic book, including a nuclear torpedo of unlimited range and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia seems intent on probing the boundaries of existing arms control agreements, particularly the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which laid the basis for the next 25 years of successful arms limitations. Even more than the uninformed statements by the U.S. president, the rhetoric of the Russian president - increasingly defining Russia’s national power as a function of its nuclear arsenal - erodes both the prospect of future arms control and the moral taboo against initiating the use of nuclear weapons. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire in 2021 and although President Putin has raised the prospect of extending the treaty, President Trump has so far rebuffed such proposals.

Joint Comprehensive Program Of Action

In the shorter term, I am especially concerned about the U.S. decision to withdraw from, that is to violate, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action with Iran. This agreement is unprecedented, both in its inspection and verification requirements, and it prevented the risk of a tenth state breaking into the nuclear weapons club. I do not believe that Iranian development of a nuclear weapon is imminent but I am deeply concerned about the follow-on effects of this decision, that is the undermining of U.S. credibility and commitment to any agreement, the creation of a serious dispute between the U.S. and its best allies in Europe and Asia, the erosion of the international rules-based order and a resurgent radicalism in Iran.

North Korea

I am less pessimistic but still deeply concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. President Trump did the right thing, trading in violent rhetoric for an opportunity for dialogue. There are dozens of reasons to distrust North Korea’s approach to negotiations and to doubt the capability of the Trump administration to negotiate a meaningful, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. But the pursuit of negotiation is far preferable to simply sleepwalking towards war, as we seemed to be doing a year ago.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains central to our shared global ambition to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce existing arsenals. On the surface, the deliberations at NPT conferences often seem utterly divorced from the real world. In fact, all the concerns I’ve just listed have a real effect on the degree of consensus you can reach among NPT parties and on the commitment that other parties show to the treaty.

For the 2020 Review Conference, I can foresee the worst but I am determined to work for the best. The RevCon can easily be upset either by the U.S. and Russia sniping at each other or by the continued inability of the states in the Middle East to sit down together and begin the process of discussing a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East. But the most severe threat to the unity of states-parties is the growing frustration of non-nuclear weapon states with the pace of nuclear disarmament. Seeing no new U.S.-Russian agreements since 2010 and the new threatening developments in Washington and Moscow that I’ve already described, the majority of the world’s non-nuclear weapon states have made clear that they will demand more urgent progress in 2020.

Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World

So what can we do to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons?

Near-Term Steps

There are a number of steps that the United States and Russia could take right now that would change the current trajectory. First and most simply, to hear President Trump and President Putin repeat what Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan said in 1985 - that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought - would be of value, would provide some reassurance that these two leaders understand their responsibilities to humanity. Secondly, the United States and Russia need to extend New START. Third, they need to make a political decision to work harder on resolving the dispute about compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. And fourth there needs to be a more regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington on both the military and political level, to pursue risk reduction measures that would prevent a conventional conflict from escalating to a nuclear one and to explore other steps that would allow each to maintain security at a lower level of armament. Finally, the United States should reassert the leadership it showed after 2010 when it led an intensive dialogue among the P5 nuclear-weapon states to give the world greater transparency, to reduce nuclear risks, and to lay the groundwork for future multilateral arms control.

It’s not easy to get either Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin to do something that reminds them of Mikhail Gorbachev or Barack Obama. In fact, it’s not easy to get them to do something unless you can convince them that it was their own brilliant idea. But it is an obligation of the rest of the world to continue to press for this. I know from my own experience with bilateral diplomacy that meetings with either Russian or American leaders always have an agenda filled with urgent items and that concerns about long-term items such as arms control simply fall out of the conversation. It is crucial that not only Japanese leaders but all world leaders press both Presidents to take serious action.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Moscow and Washington, what can non-nuclear weapon states do for themselves to move us towards a nuclear-weapon-free world? Many non-nuclear weapon states have sought to answer that question by negotiating a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted last July.

The drafting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year was historic. Some would like to see it as simply an expression of frustration on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states. It’s a lot more than that. It is a strong moral and ethical statement. And more than that, it is something tangible, something that can be touched by the hibakusha and the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a statement of reality that the risk of nuclear war is not born only by the nuclear-weapon states but by the entire world. And it is intended to serve as an impulse for further action globally on nuclear disarmament. I’m well aware of its limitations. The TPNW will not by itself immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons. And it does not provide a pathway for Washington and Moscow to overcome their current impasse.

I don’t see the discussion between advocates and skeptics of the TPNW as being an argument about practicalities or about whether this treaty can work. It is - or it should be - a respectful discussion about deterrence. Nations that face no immediate military threat tend to underestimate the importance that military alliances and military deterrence play for those states that do face actual military threats. Similarly, those states whether in Europe or in Asia that feel reassurance under the nuclear umbrella of the United States tend not to appreciate how strongly concerned other states are about the disastrous humanitarian effects that a nuclear war would cause.

What is needed now is a multi-sided discussion on a topic that is easy to define and extremely difficult to resolve: how to guarantee the security of the world and of each nation without resort to nuclear deterrence. This is a discussion that has to bring together not only the idealists and social activists who helped to bring about the TPNW but also the security experts and military leaders who have the responsibility of providing for their nations’ security. It has to bring together not only nuclear-weapon states but those who are allies of nuclear-weapon states and those who feel themselves to be far from any military threat. Given my own experience with the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as a place to discuss such difficult issues, I think it has to start smaller than a conference of 190 countries.

UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda

Washington and Moscow are not going to lead this discussion. What can the rest of the world do? The UN Secretary General has laid out a comprehensive blueprint on what needs to be done on disarmament issues to provide genuine security for our citizens. I love the document. I’d like to focus in particular on what he says about nuclear disarmament.

He calls on the United States and Russia to resolve INF compliance concerns, extend New START and pursue additional reductions. He encourages all states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty, establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, pursue nuclear risk reduction measures, and develop nuclear disarmament verification standards and techniques. He warned that the international community is moving backward on disarmament. “Let us all work together to bring new urgency to achieve the universal goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said while unveiling his agenda at the University of Geneva in late May.

So how do we take forward an idea on which not only everyone in this room but most of the world is united upon?

Joint Enterprise

Now is the time to convene a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on nuclear disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states can invite their counterparts - 20 to 30 heads of states of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon countries - to join a one or two day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This could be a starting point for ongoing regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial level. As the former foreign minister Kishida argued, this dialogue must be based both on a clear understanding of the devastating impact of nuclear weapon use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

This is not a new idea. Four of the best American thinkers on such issues - George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn - have been arguing for several years for a Joint Enterprise, a new multilateral effort that would take concrete, practical steps to create the conditions that would make possible genuine nuclear disarmament. As outlined by the “four horsemen,” a Joint Enterprise summit would be supplemented by a joint communique from all participating states and national commitments to work towards disarmament. Unfortunately, the leadership of such an effort will not come from either Washington or Moscow. When the long-time ‘leader of the free world’ is deliberately stepping away from leadership, the other democratic nations of the world must take up the challenge. It’s up to Japan, to Germany, to Canada, to other nations that still believe in multilateralism to get this effort started.

Discussion of the conditions that would help achieve a nuclear weapons-free world must become as common among world leaders as discussions about tariffs or immigration. The constant raising of this topic is the responsibility of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and it is the duty of citizens of all nations to remind their leaders of this responsibility.

It is written in Pirkei Avot, a well-known Jewish text, that “you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Here in Nagasaki, we say again that all of us – elected leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens – “we will not desist from this duty.”

Thank you and God bless you!

 

 

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Posted: July 28, 2018

The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance

August 2004

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: July 2018 

On Oct. 21, 1994, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement-the Agreed Framework-calling upon Pyongyang to freeze operation and construction of nuclear reactors suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors. The agreement also called upon the United States to supply North Korea with fuel oil pending construction of the reactors. An international consortium called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was formed to implement the agreement.

The Agreed Framework ended an 18-month crisis during which North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which North Korea committed not to develop nuclear weapons. (See ACA's Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy for more information on U.S.-North Korean nuclear relations.)

The Agreed Framework succeeded in temporarily freezing North Korea’s plutonium production capabilities and placing it under IAEA safeguards by freezing operation of North Korea’s 5 MWe reactor at Yongbyon and stopping construction of two other reactors – a 50 MWe reactor at Yongbyon and a 200 MWe reactor at Taechon. In 2003, former Ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard concluded that without the Agreed Framework, North Korea could have as many as 100 nuclear weapons in 2003. 

Agreed Framework Breakdown

Following North Korea’s 1998 Taepodong missile test, the Clinton administration, with the assistance of former Secretary of Defense William Perry, conducted a North Korea policy review, which recommended building additional agreements on top of the Agreed Framework. However, just before the Clinton administration could reach an additional agreement with North Korea, President Bush was elected and began his own North Korea policy review, which stretched into 2002.

Although the Bush administration review initially also called for further negotiations, before it could release the review, U.S. intelligence sources revealed that North Korea’s centrifuge program was pursuing technology for a uranium enrichment program, which would produce material for nuclear weapons.

Rather than confront the North Koreans and demand they halt their efforts to create a uranium enrichment capability, the intelligence findings gave those in the Bush administration who opposed the Agreed Framework a reason to abandon it. John Bolton, then- undersecretary of state for arms control and international security under President Bush, later wrote that “this was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.”

At the behest of the Bush administration, KEDO announced Nov. 21, 2003 that it would suspend construction of the two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea for one year beginning Dec. 1. The suspension came in response to Pyongyang’s failure to meet “the conditions necessary for continuing” the project, according to the KEDO announcement.

KEDO further stated that the project’s future “will be assessed and decided by [its] Executive Board before the expiration of the suspension period.” But a Department of State spokesperson said several days earlier that there is “no future for the project.”

Furthermore, Washington announced that Pyongyang admitted during an Oct. 4, 2002 bilateral meeting to possessing a uranium-enrichment program, which could be used to build nuclear weapons and would violate North Korea’s commitment to forgo the acquisition of such weapons. North Korea initially denied that it said this, but later admitted to the existence of such a program when confronted with new evidence by U.S. officials. In response to the admission, KEDO suspended oil shipments to North Korea the next month. North Korea reacted Dec. 12 by announcing that it would restart the nuclear facilities governed by the Agreed Framework.

After a series of exchanges with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), IAEA inspectors left the country Dec. 31 after Pyongyang expelled them. North Korea announced Jan. 10, 2003, that it was withdrawing from the NPT, effective the next day. Pyongyang’s official status with the treaty remains ambiguous.

The construction of the future light-water reactors was far behind schedule. The first reactor was initially slated for completion in 2003 but was not likely to be operational until 2008 at the earliest. Numerous events—most notably North Korea’s Taepo Dong-1 missile test-firing in 1998—strained relations between Washington and Pyongyang, resulting in the construction delays.

The agreement ultimately broke down, and negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program shifted to a larger process known as the Six Party Talks, which also included South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.

Terms of the Agreed Framework

Joint U.S.-North Korean Obligations:

  • The United States and North Korea committed to move toward normalizing economic and political relations, including by reducing barriers to investment, opening liaison offices, and ultimately exchanging ambassadors.

The Clinton administration made some progress on fulfilling this aspect of the framework toward the end of its second term, most notably when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang in October 2000. Additionally, in June 2000, Washington eased longstanding sanctions against North Korea under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Export Administration Act, clearing the way for increased trade, financial transactions, and investment. Pyongyang is still prohibited, however, from receiving U.S. exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most related assistance.

  • Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States must "provide formal assurances" not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Pyongyang is required to "consistently take steps" to implement the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The United States' most recent commitment to this obligation was in the Oct. 12, 2000 Joint Communiqué between Washington and Pyongyang. The relevant portion reads: "The two sides stated that neither government would have hostile intent toward the other and confirmed the commitment of both governments to make every effort in the future to build a new relationship free from past enmity."

Bush administration officials have said several times that the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea. A Jan. 7, 2003 joint statement from the United States, Japan, and South Korea reaffirmed this commitment in writing, stating that the United States "has no intention of invading" North Korea.

The Bush administration, however, has sent mixed signals about its intentions toward North Korea. Pyongyang argues that the United States has not lived up to its commitment because President George W. Bush called North Korea part of an "axis of evil" in January 2002. North Korea reacted to the speech by accusing Washington of "pursuing [a] hostile policy to stifle the DPRK."

In September 2002, the Bush administration released a report which emphasizes pre-emptively attacking countries developing weapons of mass destruction. It explicitly mentions North Korea. In addition, a leaked version of the Bush administration's January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons, although it does not mention pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

North Korean Obligations

  • Reactor Freeze and Dismantlement: The framework calls for North Korea to freeze operation of its 5-megawatt reactor and plutonium-reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and construction of a 50-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon and a 200-megawatt plant at Taechon. These facilities are to be dismantled prior to the completion of the second light-water reactor.

North Korea has restarted the reactor. Although North Korea has said it is developing a nuclear deterrent, it has not explicitly threatened to use any spent fuel from its restarted reactor to build nuclear weapons.

  • Inspections: North Korea must come into "full compliance" with IAEA safeguards when a "significant portion of the [light-water reactor] project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components." Full compliance includes taking all steps deemed necessary by the IAEA to determine the extent to which North Korea diverted material for weapons use in the past, including giving inspectors access to all nuclear facilities in the country. The CIA estimates that Pyongyang has not accounted for one to two nuclear weapons worth of plutonium from the Yongbyon reactor.

The Agreed Framework states that North Korea must fully comply with IAEA safeguards when "a significant portion of the LWR project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components." The United States, however, had been demanding that North Korea begin cooperation with the IAEA as soon as possible, because the agency needs approximately three to four years to complete inspections. There had been concerns that waiting to start inspections until a significant portion of the project is completed would jeopardize the Agreed Framework's ultimate success, because it would further delay completion of the reactors. North Korea will no longer be required to comply with IAEA inspections once its withdrawal from the NPT is complete.

  • Spent Fuel: The spent fuel from North Korea's 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon is to be put into containers as soon as possible (a process called "canning") and removed from the country when nuclear components for the first light-water reactor begin to arrive after North Korea has come into full compliance with IAEA safeguards.

The canning process, conducted with U.S. financing, began April 27, 1996, and was finished in April 2000. The spent fuel, however, remains in North Korea, and Pyongyang may have reprocessed it into weapons-grade plutonium. The amount of fuel is sufficient for several nuclear weapons, according to the CIA.

  • NPT Membership: The Agreed Framework requires that North Korea remain a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

North Korea announced Jan. 10, 2003 that it was withdrawing from the treaty, effective Jan. 11. Although Article X of the NPT requires that a country give three months' notice in advance of withdrawing, North Korea argues that it has satisfied this requirement because it originally announced its decision to withdraw March 12, 1993, and suspended the decision one day before it was to become legally binding. Whether North Korea remains an NPT state-party is ambiguous.

U.S. Obligations

  • Establish and Organize KEDO: This includes the securing of diplomatic and legal rights and guarantees necessary to implement the light-water reactor project.

KEDO was established March 9, 1995, and membership included 12 states and the European Union, which provide electrical-power supplies and financial assistance to help KEDO implement the Agreed Framework. On May 31, 2006, KEDO officially ended its light-water reactor project, citing the failure of the DPRK to carry out the steps outlined in the KEDO-DPRK Supply Agreement. 

  • Implement the Light-Water Reactor Project: The United States is to facilitate the construction of two 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear power reactors.

KEDO delegated responsibility to Japan and South Korea to finance and supply North Korea with two light-water reactors. After several years of site preparation, ground was broken in August 2001 in Kumho, North Korea. KEDO poured the concrete for the first reactor in August 2002, but suspended the project Dec. 1, 2003.

  • Provide Heavy-Fuel Oil Shipments: To compensate for the electricity-generating capacity that Pyongyang gave up by freezing its nuclear reactors, KEDO will supply North Korea with 500,000 metric tons of heavy-fuel oil annually until the light-water reactor project is completed.

KEDO suspended the shipments in November 2002. The United States had provided the largest financial contribution for these shipments.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

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Posted: July 19, 2018

After the Singapore Summit

The historic if brief encounter on June 12 between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides a hopeful starting point for the lengthy and arduous process of negotiating the details of denuclearization and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.


July/August 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

The historic if brief encounter on June 12 between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides a hopeful starting point for the lengthy and arduous process of negotiating the details of denuclearization and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of their historic summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)The summit process has certainly eased tensions, but contrary to Trump’s self-aggrandizing claim that there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” the reality is that the difficult work of disarmament diplomacy has only just begun.

Denuclearization is no simple task. There is no precedent for a country that has openly tested nuclear weapons and developed a nuclear arsenal and infrastructure as substantial as the one in North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs involve dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings, and thousands of people. Rapid progress should be the goal, but comprehensive denuclearization will take years.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a CNN interview on June 24, hinted that more has been accomplished than the Singapore communiqué revealed. “There are understandings that have been put together prior to the summit…that I think put us on the right trajectory so that we can build out a framework for success,” he said.

With Pompeo expected to make a return trip to Pyongyang soon, the first order of business must be to agree on a framework for ongoing, direct, expert-level negotiations on the details and time frame for action-for-action steps. The process could be coordinated through high-level, three-party consultations involving the United States, South Korea, and North Korea.

An early goal should be to reach a common understanding, in writing, about what denuclearization entails—a crucial detail left out of the Singapore summit joint statement. A good basis would be the 1992 Joint Declaration on Denuclearization by North and South Korea.

Next, the United States will want North Korea to solidify its voluntary nuclear test moratorium by signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and expand on its missile testing halt to include an end to new ballistic missile production. It also will be crucial to secure a pledge from North Korea to halt fissile material production. These steps would help ensure that North Korea cannot expand its arsenal while negotiations continue.

Another early goal should be to secure North Korea’s commitment to deliver a full declaration of its nuclear infrastructure, materials, and weapons to be verified later by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) using guidelines and techniques established by the IAEA Model Additional Protocol for nuclear safeguards.

Further, the two sides will need to agree to a process and a timeline for dismantling North Korea’s stockpile of 10 to 50 nuclear weapons and securing separated fissile material. This work would likely have to be supervised by specialists from nuclear-weapon states in cooperation with North Korean technical experts.

Facilities that are part of North Korea's nuclear complex also would need to be verifiably dismantled or converted to peaceful uses under international supervision. This would be a major undertaking that could build on the experience from U.S. and Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, which helped eliminate excess Cold War-era stockpiles and sites.

The summit communiqué underscores that progress on denuclearization depends on joint “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean peninsula. Kim is not going to give up nuclear weapons if he believes doing so will compromise North Korea’s security.

Trump’s postsummit decision to suspend U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea is an important confidence-building measure that may help catalyze further progress. What more can be done and done in a way that improves allies’ security? Key measures might include

  • formal security guarantees, including a commitment not to initiate the use of force against one another,
    and a hotline agreement to help avoid miscommunication in a crisis;
  • removal of U.S. strategic bombers and offensive-strike assets from any future joint military exercises;
  • a three-party declaration on the end of the Korean War to be followed by formal negotiations on a peace treaty involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and China;
  • steps toward the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations, beginning with the opening of a diplomatic interest section in Pyongyang and Washington; and
  • reduction of military force deployments on both sides of the demilitarized zone in a manner consistent
    with a future peace treaty.

The overall goal should be to continue to move as quickly as possible toward halting, reversing, and eliminating North Korea’s nuclear strike potential and away from a worsening crisis involving a growing North Korean nuclear capability and U.S. threats, such as Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks that brought the region to the brink of war in 2017.

Success is far from guaranteed. Yet, the pursuit of disarmament diplomacy with North Korea is far better than
the alternatives.

 

Posted: July 1, 2018

After the Summit: A Next Step for the United States and North Korea

Seeking North Korea’s signature on and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is the most promising near-term option to build confidence and make meaningful progress toward nuclear disarmament.


July/August 2018
By Stephen Herzog

The improved prospects for peace and nuclear disarmament dominated the headlines following the historic first meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, countries that have been bitter adversaries for seven decades.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of their historic summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12. The challenge will be to implement their summit declaration, including the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)The about-face by the two leaders at the June 12 summit in Singapore was remarkable, given that their bellicose rhetoric mere months earlier had threatened to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war. “We’re prepared to start a new history, and we’re ready to write a new chapter,” declared U.S. President Donald Trump. “The world will see a major change,” affirmed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.1

Their summit joint statement, however, signed after four hours of talks, is vague and draws on wording from past U.S.-North Korean communiqués. Regarding nuclear weapons, North Korea signed on to familiar diplomatic language about the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula that, as in the past, is open to differing interpretations. In selling the outcome as a win, Trump also pointed to what appears to be Kim’s sole new concession, destruction of a “major missile-engine testing site.”2

Although Trump proclaimed on Twitter that his diplomatic engagement means “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” Pyongyang has yet to dismantle a single warhead, ballistic missile, or launch site. Until that happens, the threat remains salient, even if bilateral tensions have eased.

Now that the public show is over, the difficult work toward nuclear disarmament begins. The most promising near-term option to build U.S.-North Korean confidence and make meaningful progress toward nuclear disarmament is to obtain Pyongyang’s signature on and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). If Kim is serious about turning back the clock on his nuclear program, permanent cessation of nuclear testing should be mutually agreeable. The treaty would restrict North Korean nuclear weapons development and lock the regime into arms control commitments. Further, it would open the door for representatives of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to verify the recently declared closure of the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.

Debating Disarmament

In fewer than seven years in power, Kim has achieved the dream of his father and grandfather by meeting with the sitting U.S. president as an equal. Yet, his willingness to verifiably eliminate his nuclear weapons remains suspect; North Korea had promised to denuclearize at least six times prior to the Singapore summit.3 Barring an unexpected overture from Kim, the Trump administration needs to lay out a series of concrete, feasible steps to kick-start the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear arsenal. These steps should provide policy specifics to implement the overall framework of the joint statement and move the process forward.

Much of the skepticism about postsummit prospects stems from contrasting U.S. and North Korean interpretations of nuclear disarmament. Prior to the Singapore meeting, the Trump administration said that North Korea must engage in complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of its arsenal. This position is similar to the so-called Libya model, wherein U.S. technical experts collected former President Moammar Gaddafi’s nuclear program and transported the components to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. North Korean officials have shown no interest in this proposal, championed most vociferously by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, which briefly led to the summit’s cancellation.4 The Pentagon and the CIA assess that Kim will not fully disarm in the immediate future.5

In the joint communiqué, North Korea “commits to work toward complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Similar wording appears in the Panmunjom Declaration, signed April 27 by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. This is the historic North Korean position dating back to the days of Kim Il Sung, the first leader of North Korea and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather.

The United States and its allies contend that “denuclearization” refers to the rollback of the North’s nuclear program, while Pyongyang’s leaders have long conditioned any backing away from their nuclear aspirations on an absence of external security threats. Previously, they have called for an end to the U.S. military alliance with South Korea, withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula, removal of South Korea and Japan from the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and even U.S.-North Korean nuclear disarmament.6 Only time will tell if the United States and its allies can bridge the perception gap with North Korea and overcome the missed opportunities of past accords, notably the so-called Agreed Framework and the statements from the six-party talks.

At North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, international journalists stand near a tunnel entrance before its demolition May 24. No international experts were invited to verify the extent of the destruction of the tunnel network at the remote, mountainous site. (Photo: News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)Consequently, building confidence with incremental, verifiable steps marks the best path on the long road to disarmament. Many critics are rightly suspicious of Kim’s willingness to disarm, but others have struck more cautious notes of optimism about a road map for eliminating the North’s nuclear program over the next decade or longer.7 The administration’s messaging about the timeline for doing so has been inconsistent, however, which suggests that the U.S. side does not have a clear plan to propose to North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has indicated that disarmament could occur in as little as two years, but Trump has walked back expectations by saying, “It does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization.”8

A number of other potential steps could initiate nuclear disarmament. Yet, each poses challenges that will take time to overcome. Some possibilities involve setting initial caps on the number of North Korean long-range missiles or nuclear warheads or demolition of ballistic missile launch sites. Kim declared his April freeze on weapons testing only after the regime had conducted six nuclear explosions and 117 ballistic missile flights that gave him sufficient confidence in the performance of his arsenal.

It appears highly unlikely that North Korea will agree to near-term limitations on systems that contribute to deterrence by creating mutual vulnerability with the United States.9 Establishing accurate stockpile numbers and determining that the regime is not hiding weapons also require verifiable fissile material accountancy and extensive interviews with North Korean technical experts. Given the potential effects of such disclosures on deterrence, this sort of concession will require a much stronger level of bilateral trust than currently exists.

Another option might be for inspectors from the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access critical fuel-cycle facilities, such as those used for uranium enrichment and plutonium separation. Such facilities, however, are dispersed throughout North Korea, and understanding the scope of fuel cycle activities to negotiate a potential dismantlement plan will be a lengthy endeavor. In total, at least 141 known sites are associated with the North Korean nuclear weapons program, fuel cycle and otherwise.10 Granting inspectors access to all of these sites would be an unprecedented action for the highly secretive North Korean regime.

An Opening for the Test Ban

The verification hurdles suggest that even if Kim is committed to the process, North Korean nuclear disarmament will be slow and at times frustrating. Still, U.S. officials should not lose sight of the goalposts. Although few experts outside of the White House believe that Kim will part ways with any of his nuclear weapons soon, the CTBT presents a way to immediately freeze and begin rolling back the program.

The North Korean regime’s rhetoric in recent months suggests an opening for the test ban to play a central role at the outset. On April 20, Kim declared moratoriums on nuclear and ballistic missile tests and announced the permanent closure of the Punggye-ri test site. He stated, “Under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests…. [T]he nuclear test site in [the] northern area has completed its mission.”11 At the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Han Tae Song strengthened the message, noting that his country “will join international disarmament efforts for a total ban on nuclear tests.”12

The only nonproliferation regime that comprehensively addresses all aspects of prohibiting nuclear explosive testing is the CTBT, and North Korea’s acceptance of the test ban would bring about the benefits listed below that should not be overlooked by negotiators.

Building confidence and probing Kim’s intentions. The CTBT offers a litmus test of Kim’s credibility and nonproliferation bona fides. On one hand, he appears assured in his ability to strike the United States with nuclear missiles and claims that explosive tests are no longer necessary. On the other hand, acceptance of a legally binding moratorium on testing should not be taken lightly because it would place significant constraints on North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests of increasing sophistication since 2006, and the last one, in September 2017, may have been a thermonuclear device, given explosive yield estimates of up to 280 kilotons.13 Still, six tests with just one potential hydrogen bomb explosion that may have actually been a boosted fission device is not a lot when it comes to weapons development. The United States conducted 1,030 tests before declaring a moratorium in 1992, and its first full-scale thermonuclear burn of 10.4 megatons took place in 1952 at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Russia and China have carried out 715 and 45 tests each, respectively.

Pyongyang would curtail its ability to make a number of technical advances in its nuclear arsenal by terminating its testing program. Specific developments that would become difficult, perhaps nearly impossible in some cases, include building thermonuclear weapons with much higher, possibly megaton yields; producing smaller, lighter, and more deliverable warheads; and deploying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles on ballistic missiles. The regime almost certainly lacks an infrastructure for high-performance computing simulations and laser fusion experiments. Even if it were to improbably gain such advanced capabilities, its small repository of explosive testing data would limit their utility for weapons development.14

Signing and ratifying the test ban would also provide insight into Kim’s intentions because it would lock the regime into treaty commitments. History shows that the international community harshly punishes states that join multilateral nuclear arms control treaties and then violate them, regardless of whether they withdraw before doing so. North Korea has never signed the CTBT, but had ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) prior to its withdrawal in 2003. When North Korea carried out its first test at Punggye-ri three years later, despite being a nonmember of the NPT, the UN Security Council imposed biting sanctions under Resolution 1718. India and Pakistan have never joined the CTBT and NPT, but faced censure rather than sanctions in Resolution 1172 following their 1998 tests.15

Verifying the closure of Punggye-ri. Kim’s announcement that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site would be shuttered and destroyed in the lead-up to the Singapore summit was a positive development. There are legitimate reasons, however, to doubt the permanence of this action. Verification at the test site is necessary to demonstrate North Korea’s commitments to nuclear disarmament while showing the regime that it will be treated in a fair and transparent manner during the process. The CTBT could facilitate impartial international verification of the shutdown of Punggye-ri.

On May 24, as a group of about two dozen international journalists watched, North Korea carried out explosions for the alleged purpose of destroying the three intact horizontal nuclear testing tunnels at Punggye-ri. In the days before the demolition, the regime withdrew invitations for U.S. and South Korean technical experts to observe.16 The journalists present were not versed in the on-site and field inspection techniques needed to systematically analyze the day’s events. To add to these concerns, the press stood at an observation point just 500 meters away, raising questions about the size of the explosions and extent of what was actually destroyed. After the smoke cleared, satellite imagery showed that the tunnel entrances were razed, but the tunnels themselves may still be comfortably in place and recoverable with modest excavation.

Additionally, the test site’s command center appears to be operational, and the regime reportedly removed and relocated sensitive equipment before the blasts.17 Simply put, the closure of the test site requires verification; informal pledges from Kim are just not enough.

Establishing ties to the CTBTO. The CTBTO is the only international organization with the capabilities to verify that Punggye-ri is decommissioned and inoperable. CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo has offered the organization’s expertise in “site characterisation; site closure verification; post site closure and dismantlement verification; and online and remote monitoring.”18 Indeed, the CTBTO has a sizeable cadre of international inspectors and numerous other specialists through its Working Group B on verification issues, with expertise ranging from visual observation to overflight photography, environmental sampling, and drilling. Although official on-site inspections cannot occur until the treaty enters into force, the CTBTO stands ready to assist if Kim is legitimately interested in disarmament.

The CTBTO could verify closure of the test site and, as Zerbo has suggested, establish a baseline for monitoring Punggye-ri. Techniques that could be used include ground-penetrating radar and magnetic and gravitational field mapping to locate cavities or hidden underground testing infrastructure such as piping and diagnostic cabling. Multispectral imaging could allow identification of changes in the test site’s surface and subsurface geological features over time. The deployment of mobile gamma-radiation detection equipment and seismic arrays could provide local monitoring of normal background and potentially aberrant geophysical events. From there, video and remote monitoring of the site could occur, including continuous collection of International Monitoring System (IMS) data.19

Singapore Summit Statement

The following are key portions of the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the June 12 meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new US-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state
the following:

  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit—the first in history—was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in the joint statement fully and expeditiously.

The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

 


CTBTO experts are no strangers to this work, as the international community has invested heavily in the build-out of impartial, science-based procedures for test site verification. The organization has administered inspector training at the former U.S. test site in Nevada and former Soviet test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. CTBTO representatives also visited the closed French test site at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia. Furthermore, the CTBTO carried out successful, large-scale, simulated, on-site inspections in integrated field exercises in Kazakhstan in 2008 and Jordan in 2014.20

Still, some observers have raised concerns about the possible existence of a secret test site. Unlike the nuclear fuel cycle or stockpile storage, nuclear testing is a highly concentrated and expansive enterprise. In the age of satellite imagery supported by machine learning algorithms, it is unlikely that North Korea has constructed a second test site undetected by Western intelligence agencies and interested nongovernmental experts, which does not mean the possibility can be summarily dismissed out of hand.

Even in the improbable worst-case scenario, this hypothetical second test site would be unusable unless Kim desired a return to the hostile pre-Singapore climate. The CTBT monitoring system of seismic, infrasound, hydroacoustic, and radionuclide sensors is nearly 90 percent complete and successfully detected all six North Korean nuclear tests with a high degree of locational precision. North Korea is fairly aseismic, so detection of nuclear tests and discrimination between natural and artificial geophysical events is relatively straightforward.

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences report in 2012 by top U.S. technical experts also concluded that the IMS and individual national technical means would make it exceptionally difficult for even very advanced nuclear-armed states such as Russia to conduct militarily significant evasive testing without getting caught.21 There is no convincing evidence that any state, much less North Korea, could confidently employ cavity decoupling or mine masking of nuclear explosive tests.22

Seizing the Opportunity

By meeting with Trump, Kim has achieved something that was unthinkable just a few months ago. He has even received and accepted an invitation to visit the White House. Yet, many experts have well-justified and pervasive questions about the extent of Kim’s commitment to change.23

No one thinks North Korean nuclear disarmament will happen tomorrow, but now is the time to formalize the principles in the summit’s joint statement with concrete actions. There is simply no other way to gauge Kim’s intentions and build the confidence between longtime rivals that will be necessary to achieve verifiable nuclear disarmament. The nuclear test ban offers a path forward that should be feasible and mutually agreeable while providing the best prospects for preventing this rare diplomatic breakthrough from going to waste.

Persuading Kim to sign and ratify the CTBT would also be a domestic political victory for Trump. Imagine if the president convinced the only country to have tested nuclear weapons in the 21st century to embrace a treaty banning “all nuclear explosions on Earth whether for military or for peaceful purposes.” North Korea would join 183 signatory states and 166 ratifying states that have endorsed the global norm against nuclear explosive testing.

The most recent national public opinion survey on the test ban indicates that 65 percent of Americans support the United States ratifying the CTBT, with 20 percent undecided, and just 15 percent opposed. Among Trump’s core political base, 56 percent of Republicans support the motion, with 20 percent undecided, and only 24 percent opposed.24 If Americans so strongly favor forever ending U.S. nuclear tests, support for halting North Korean tests is probably close to universal. For a president with few if any bipartisan wins, getting Kim to commit to the CTBT might be a major political breakthrough.25

Trump has also stated, “The prize I want is victory for the world.”26 Putting a stop to Pyongyang’s testing once and for all would be a victory in itself. Even more importantly, getting Kim to accept legal, political, and technical constraints on his nuclear program would be an ideal launching point for future conversations about warhead and ballistic missile controls, dismantlement, and the regime eventually rejoining the NPT. Where the discussions start and end remains to be seen, but the Trump administration should begin planning straightaway to develop the framework more specifically from the summit’s joint statement.

Prompting North Korea to join the test ban is perhaps the quickest way to benchmark Kim’s openness toward disarmament, qualitatively freeze his arsenal, and begin meaningfully rolling back his nuclear weapons program. There has never been a better time to put to use the international community’s long-term investment in the CTBTO.

ENDNOTES

1. Susan Page, “Analysis: When Trump Met Kim, the Handshake Was More Historic Than the Words,” USA Today, June 12, 2018.

2. U.S. officials said the reference is to a missile-engine test facility at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, according to Reuters. North Korea has not publicly confirmed that Kim made such a commitment. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-usa-site/u-s-identifies-north-korea-missile-test-site-it-says-kim-committed-to-destroy-idUSKBN1JH02B.

3.  Brian Barrett, “All the Times North Korea Promised to Denuclearize,” Wired, June 12, 2018.

4. Mira Rapp-Hooper, “The Singapore Summit’s Three Big Takeaways,” The Washington Post, June 12, 2018.

5.  Stephen Herzog, “A Way Forward With North Korea: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,” War on the Rocks, June 11, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/06/a-way-forward-with-north-korea-the-comprehensive-nuclear-test-ban-treaty/.

6. Duyeon Kim, “The Inter-Korean Agreement and Pyongyang’s Offer to Trump,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 8, 2018, https://thebulletin.org/inter-korean-agreement-and-pyongyangs-offer-trump11590. For a forthcoming fictional account of the potentially catastrophic consequences of U.S. misunderstandings about North Korean interpretations of denuclearization, see Jeffrey Lewis, The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

7. Siegfried S. Hecker, Robert L. Carlin, and Elliot A. Serbin, “A Technically-Informed Roadmap for North Korea’s Denuclearization” (presentation, May 28, 2018), http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4492764-Stanford-Report-on-Denuclearization-Roadmap.html.

8. Louis Nelson, “Pompeo: U.S. Will Seek ‘Major Disarmament’ From North Korea Over Next Two Years,” Politico, June 13, 2018; David Nakamura et al., “Trump-Kim Summit: Trump Says After Historic Meeting, ‘We Have Developed a Very Special Bond,’” The Washington Post, June 12, 2018.

9. Mark S. Bell and Julia Macdonald, “Toward Deterrence: The Upside of the Trump-Kim Summit,” War on the Rocks, June 15, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/06/toward-deterrence-the-upside-of-the-trump-kim-summit/.

10. William J. Broad, David E. Sanger, and Troy Griggs, “The Nine Steps Really Required to Disarm North Korea,” The New York Times, June 11, 2018.

11. Joe Tacopino, “North Korea Announces It Will Suspend Nuclear, Missile Tests,” New York Post, April 20, 2018.

12. “Satellite Photo Offers Clue as N. Korea Promises ‘Total Ban’ on Nuclear Tests,” Associated Press, May 16, 2018.

13. Michelle Ye Hee Lee, “North Korea Nuclear Test May Have Been Twice as Strong as First Thought,” The Washington Post, September 13, 2017.

14. Herzog, “A Way Forward With North Korea.”

15. Ibid.

16. Adam Rawnsley, “Satellite Images Show North Korea Scrubbed Nuclear Test Site Before Unilaterally Destroying It,” The Daily Beast, May 30, 2018, https://www.thedailybeast.com/satellite-images-show-north-korea-scrubbed-nuclear-test-site-before-unilaterally-destroying-it.

17. Ibid.; Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Jack Liu, “The Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site Destroyed: A Good Start but New Questions Raised About Irreversibility,” 38 North, May 31, 2018, https://www.38north.org/2018/05/punggye053118/.

18. Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, “Statement by Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary, CTBTO, on the Singapore Summit,” June 12, 2018, https://www.ctbto.org/press-centre/press-releases/2018/statement-by-lassina-zerbo-executive-secretary-ctbto-on-the-singapore-summit/.

19. For an accessible discussion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty’s monitoring and verification system, see Ola Dahlman et al., Detect and Deter: Can Countries Verify the Nuclear Test Ban? (New York: Springer, 2011), pp. 129-157. See also Andreas Persbo, “Compliance Science: The CTBT’s Global Verification System,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 23, Nos. 3-4 (2016): 317-328.

20. Oliver Meier, “Special Report: Major Exercise Tests CTBT On-site Inspections,” Arms Control Today, November 2008, pp. 32-38; Jenifer Mackby, “Special Report: Did Maridia Conduct a Nuclear Test Explosion? On-site Inspection and the CTBT,” Arms Control Today, January-February 2015, pp. 16-22.

21. Committee on Reviewing and Updating Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, National Research Council of the National Academies, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Technical Issues for the United States (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2012).

22. Kaegan McGrath, “Verifiability, Reliability, and National Security: The Case for U.S. Ratification of the CTBT,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2009): 412-414.

23. Vipin Narang and Ankit Panda, “North Korea Is a Nuclear Power. Get Used to It,” The New York Times, June 12, 2018; Jeffrey Lewis, “The Photo-Op Summit,” Foreign Policy, June 10, 2018, http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/10/the-photo-op-summit/.

24. Stephen Herzog and Jonathon Baron, “Public Support, Political Polarization, and the Nuclear-Test Ban: Evidence from a New U.S. National Survey,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 24, Nos. 3-4 (2017): 363-368.

25. Herzog, “A Way Forward With North Korea.”

26. Emily Cochrane, “President Trump a Nobel Laureate? It’s a Possibility,” The New York Times, May 9, 2018.


Stephen Herzog is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Yale University and Nonresident WSD-Handa Fellow with the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Previously, he directed a scientific engagement program supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Posted: July 1, 2018

Summit Reflects New Attitudes, Old Challenges

By talking rather than threatening, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stepped back from an accelerating slide toward a conflict. Still, eliminating Kim’s nuclear weapons is a
tall order.


July/August 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The historic Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have emphasized pageantry over substance, but the document both leaders signed could start a serious negotiating process on eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they sit down with their respective delegations for the U.S.-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12.  (Photo:  Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Their June 12 joint statement committed North Korea to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and both countries to hold follow-on negotiations at the “earliest possible date” to implement the leaders’ understandings.

Upon his return to Washington on June 13, Trump claimed to have achieved his goal, tweeting misleadingly that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." The reassurance was premature at best, given that the summit statement did not commit Kim to take any specific steps to halt his nuclear weapons program. Negotiations on what comes next are bound to be difficult, and the history of failed agreements (see box) will weigh on the talks.

Still, by talking rather than threatening, Trump and Kim have stepped back from what seemed to be an accelerating slide toward a conflict with the risk of nuclear weapons use in 2017. Kim, one of the world’s most isolated leaders, bolstered his standing by attaining a one-on-one meeting with a U.S. president. It remains to be seen if the meeting created the necessary political momentum to begin a negotiating process or if it sends the wrong message about leveraging illicit nuclear activities for political gain. Iran, for one, may note the disparity in U.S. treatment.

The U.S. negotiators, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, must try to convert the declared understandings into detailed commitments and then into actions leading to North Korea's complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament—the very goal that has eluded negotiators in the past. How this goes in the coming weeks, months, and perhaps years—not the day-after celebratory tweets from the U.S. president—will determine whether the meeting was a historic turning point or another diplomatic disappointment.

Going into the summit, North Korea and the United States had different expectations about what denuclearization entails. (See ACT, May 2018.) The reference to “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” does not appear to have resolved those differences, and gaps are already discernable between the two countries’ interpretations of the summit commitments.

Before the summit, Pompeo told reporters in Singapore that the “complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.”

When pressed by reporters after the summit on why there was no inclusion of the word “verification” in the summit document, Pompeo said that verification was understood as part of “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” A June 13 statement on the summit published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention verification.

Differences in interpretation have plagued U.S. negotiations with North Korea in the past. Most recently, a February 2012 moratorium on long-range missile tests collapsed when North Korea conducted a satellite launch in April of that year. Satellite launch vehicles were not expressly mentioned in the so-called Leap Day deal; the United States said it was understood that such launches were also prohibited, whereas North Korea said they were permitted. (See ACT, May 2012.)

The KCNA statement said that the two leaders agreed “it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action” to achieve peace, stability, and denuclearization.

John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, said June 20 in an interview with Fox News that all sanctions will remain in force until there is evidence of North Korean denuclearization.

It may be difficult for the United States to retain sanctions pressure, given the steps Kim has taken to halt nuclear weapons and certain missile tests and to engage in negotiations with the United States and South Korea.

Following the summit, China called for the UN Security Council to support the diplomatic process and adjust sanctions, “including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions” if North Korea “acts in accordance” with Security Council resolutions. In addition to requiring North Korea to halt nuclear weapons and missile tests, the Security Council resolutions also demand Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.

In follow-up negotiations, Pompeo will need to clarify with his North Korean counterparts the expectations for denuclearization or run the risk that Pyongyang may exploit any ambiguity in the future.

Despite differences over scope and sequencing, the summit may yield concrete results. Kim is more likely to take verifiable steps to halt and roll back his nuclear and ballistic missile programs if there is a fundamental shift in U.S.-North Korean relations, and despite the insults Kim and Trump traded last year, the two leaders seem to have developed a personal chemistry.

North Korea has long stated that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against “U.S. hostile policy” toward the country. The KCNA statement on June 13 said that if the United States is willing to take “genuine measures to improving trust” between the two countries, North Korea will take commensurate steps. The statement also said the two countries should commit to refrain from “antagonizing” one another and noted that Trump and Kim have “deepening friendly feelings.”

Trump’s expressions of admiration for Kim, despite myriad human rights abuses, and his announcement at the June 12 summit news conference that the United States would suspend joint “war games” with South Korea may demonstrate that Washington is willing to take steps to respond to North Korea’s security concerns.

Trump’s decision to suspend all military exercises and his adoption of Pyongyang’s term of “war games” to describe the drills caught many off guard, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. military forces in Korea. South Korea later agreed to suspend the planned exercises in August.

Pompeo had acknowledged in his June 11 news conference that addressing North Korea’s security concerns and steps on denuclearization must go hand in hand, but did not indicate that Trump was putting a suspension of exercises on the table during the summit.

Trump did say that the United States would resume military exercises if negotiations with North Korea fail to make progress. He did not indicate if the continued suspension was tied to a continuation of North Korea’s voluntary pledge in April to halt long-range ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests.

China has long pushed an interim “freeze for freeze” proposal in which North Korea would agree to halt testing in exchange for a halt of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Last year, U.S. officials including H.R. McMaster, the then-national security adviser, rejected that concept. (See ACT, November 2017.)

As the dominant regional power, China is playing an important, if unclear, role. Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping twice in the lead-up to the summit and again on June 19. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on June 12 that the Trump-Kim summit has “important and positive meaning.”

 

North Korea's Past Nuclear Agreements at a Glance

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” as stated in the Singapore summit statement, follows a history of agreements that at times curbed but ultimately failed to stop North Korea from producing and testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Following is a summary of some of the previous agreements.

Jan. 20, 1992: The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, agreeing not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons or to possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium-enrichment facilities. They also agree to mutual inspections for verification. The following year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that North Korea had clandestinely separated a small amount of plutonium.

Aug. 12, 1994: The United States and North Korea sign an “agreed statement” that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant power reactors to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors.

Oct. 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the Agreed Framework. The accord calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors. North Korea agreed to allow the IAEA to verify compliance through special inspections and to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country, in exchange for heavy fuel oil shipments and the construction of two, more proliferation-resistant light-water reactors. Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang’s development and export of ballistic missiles. The agreement broke down by 2002 over accusations by
each side that the other had failed to comply with key obligations.

June 15, 2000: Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have “agreed to resolve” the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The declaration included promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.

Sept. 19, 2005: The participants in the six-party talks conclude a statement of principles to guide future negotiations. North Korea commits “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date” to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to IAEA safeguards. It also called for the 1992 Joint Declaration to be “observed and implemented.” Washington affirms in the statement that it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea. The statement commits the participants to achieving “the verifiable denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula “in a peaceful manner.” Implementation disputes arose, and North Korea conducted its first nuclear test explosion on Oct. 9, 2006.

Feb. 8-13, 2007: The fifth round of the six-party talks concludes with an action plan of initial steps to implement the September 2005 joint statement on North Korea’s denuclearization. North Korea agreed to halt the operation of its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon during a 60-day initial phase in return for an initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. The action plan also established five working groups to “discuss and formulate specific plans” regarding economic and energy cooperation, denuclearization, implementation of a “Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism,” North Korean relations with the United States, and North Korean relations with Japan. The statement called for Pyongyang to provide a complete declaration of all of its nuclear programs and disable all of its existing nuclear facilities in return for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or its equivalent. By the end of 2008, however, the last of the six-party talks ended in a stalemate due to a U.S.-North Korean dispute over the verification of North Korea’s declaration.

Feb. 29, 2012: Following a Feb. 23–24 meeting between the United States and North Korea in Beijing, the two countries announce in separate statements the “Leap Day” agreement by North Korea to suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium-enrichment plant, invite IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension, and implement moratoriums on nuclear and long-range missile tests. The United States says that it would provide North Korea with 240,000 metric tons of food aid under strict monitoring. The agreement fell apart over a dispute about whether it prohibited “space launches” and North Korea’s March 2012 attempt to use a rocket to loft a satellite into orbit.

March 8, 2018: Following a series of ballistic missile tests in 2017, including successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flight tests; threats of military attack from the United States; and North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3, 2017, senior South Korean officials convey an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

June 12, 2018: Trump and Kim meet for about four hours in Singapore and sign a joint communique in which they agree to establish “new” U.S.-North Korean relations, build a “lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean peninsula, and recover remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War. Kim commits to “work toward complete denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula, and Trump commits to provide unspecified “security guarantees” for North Korea.

Posted: July 1, 2018

Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: North Korea

June 2018

Updated: June 2018

North Korea is estimated to have assembled 10-20 nuclear warheads and to have the fissile material for an estimated 30-60 nuclear weapons, as well as advanced chemical and biological weapons programs. In the past several years Pyongyang has accelerated the pace of ballistic missile testing, and twice in July 2017 tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. North Korea withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003, but its withdrawal is disputed. Beginning in 2006, the UN Security Council has passed several resolutions requiring North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile activities and imposing sanctions on Pyongyang for its refusal to comply. As of early 2018, North Korea has shown interest in pursuing negotiations regarding disarmament. 

Contents

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties​

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

  • The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview
  • History and Diplomatic Initiatives
  • Delivery Systems
  • Fissile Material
  • Proliferation Record
  • Nuclear Doctrine

Biological Weapons

Chemical Weapons

Additional Resources on North Korea

 

 

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

 

Signed

Ratified

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

*North Korea maintains it withdrew from the NPT in 2003, but its withdrawal is questionable.

---

1985*

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

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---

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

---

---

CPPNM 2005 Amendment

---

---

Chemical Weapons Convention

---

---

Biological Weapons Convention

---

1987

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

---

---

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Group

Status

Australia Group

Not a member

Missile Technology Control Regime

Not a member and has frequently exported missiles and related materials

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Not a member

Wassenaar Arrangement

Not a member

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

None

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Not a participant

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

Not a participant

Proliferation Security Initiative

Not a participant

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673

North Korea has not filed the requested reports on its activities to fulfill the resolution

Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

  • North Korea currently is estimated to have 10-20 warheads and the fissile material for an estimated 30-60 nuclear weapons. It may have as many as 20-100 warheads by 2020. 
  • North Korea is estimated to possess 20-40 kilograms of plutonium and 250-500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium with an annual estimated production of fissile material for 6-7 weapons, but there is a high degree of uncertainty surrounding these estimates.
  • North Korea was party to the NPT, but withdrew in 2003. Not all states, however, recognize the legality of North Korea’s withdrawal from the treaty.
  • North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests as of September 2017. After the first test in 2006, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1718, enacting a variety of multilateral sanctions and demanding that Pyongyang return to the NPT and halt its nuclear weapons activities.

History and Diplomatic Initiatives

The Origin of the Program

  • North Korea, with the assistance of the Soviet Union, began constructing the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center in the early 1960s and by the early 1970s, had access to plutonium reprocessing technology from the Soviet Union. 
  • In December 1985, North Korea signed the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.
  • However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered in 1992 that North Korea had diverted plutonium from its civilian program for weapons purposes.

Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

  • In December 1991, the two Koreas signed a Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under the declaration, both countries agreed not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” The parties also agreed to mutual inspections for verification, but they were never able to reach an agreement on implementation.
  • In light of North Korea's flagrant violations, this agreement holds little weight in Seoul, which has called for an end to the prohibition on South Korean reprocessing from its bilateral nuclear agreement with the United States.
  • North Korea formally declared the Joint Declaration void in January 2013.

U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework

  • In 1994, former President Jimmy Carter and North Korean leader Kim Il Sung negotiated the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework, in which North Korea committed to freeze its plutonium-based weapons program at Yongbyon in exchange for two light-water reactors and other forms of energy assistance. The deal eventually broke down and North Korea withdrew from the NPT.
  • For more information, see The U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework at a Glance.

Six-Party Talks

  • In August 2003, in response to North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT, Russia, China, Japan, the United States, and the two Koreas launched a multilateral diplomatic process, known as the six-party talks.
  • In September 2005, the six-party talks realized its first major success with the adoption of a joint statement in which North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear weapons activities and return to the NPT in return for security assurances and energy assistance.
  • In building on the 2005 statement, North Korea took steps such as disabling its plutonium reactor at Yongbyon in 2007 and allowing IAEA inspectors into the country. In return, North Korea received fuel oil.
  • North Korea declared it would no longer be bound by agreements made under the six party talks in April 2009 after a period of increased tensions.
  • For more information, see: The Six Party Talks at a Glance

Nuclear tests

  • On Oct. 9, 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test with an estimated yield of about one kiloton.
  • North Korea then conducted its second nuclear test on June 25, 2009 with the underground detonation of a nuclear device estimated to have a yield of 2 to 6 kilotons.
  • On February 12, 2013, the Korean Central News Agency announced that North Korea successfully detonated a nuclear device at its underground test site. The explosive yield was estimated at approximately 15 kilotons. North Korea claimed the device was ‘miniaturized’, a term commonly used to refer to a warhead light enough to fit on the tip of a ballistic missile.
  • On January 6, 2016, Pyongyang announced its fourth nuclear test, declaring that it was a test of the hydrogen bomb design. The explosive yield was estimated at 15-20 kilotons.  Experts doubt that the test was a hydrogen bomb, but contend that the test could have used boosted fission, a process that uses lithium gas to increase the efficiency of the fission reaction for a larger explosion.
  • On September 9, 2016, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test, with an estimated explosive yield of 20-25 kilotons.
  • On September 3, 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test explosion, of what experts assess could be a hydrogen bomb with an estimated explosive yield of 140-250 kilotons.

2018 Diplomatic Overture

  • Kim Jong Un’s 2018 New Year’s Address
    • In his annual New Year’s Address to the nation, Kim Jong Un declared that North Korea had accomplished the “perfecting” of its nuclear program and met its strategic objectives. Kim also called for improved inter-Korean relations.
  • Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang
    • After negotiations with South Korea, a delegation of North Korean athletes was allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
    • Kim Jong Un continued his so-called “charm offensive” during the Games by sending his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to deliver a letter to South Korean president Moon Jae-in inviting him to visit Pyongyang.
  • Voluntary Moratorium on Testing
    • On April 20, 2018, Kim Jong-Un announced that North Korea would end all testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles and close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site
    • On May 24, 2018, North Korea appeared to blow up at least three tunnels at Punggye-ri, according to international journalists who were invited to witness the demolition.
  • April 2018 Inter-Korean Summit
    • On April 27, 2018, Kim Jong Un and President Moon Jae-in met in Panmunjom for a high level summit, where they discussed issues such as denuclearization and a settlement to end the Korean War.
    • A joint declaration signed by both parties included agreements to facilitate "groundbreaking advancement" in inter-Korean relations, "to make joint efforts to practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean peninsula," and to cooperate to "establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula."
  • June 2018 Trump-Kim Summit
    • On June 12, 2018, Kim Jong Un and President Trump met in Singapore for high level talks that focused on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and improved bilateral relations.
    • The two leaders signed a joint statement agreeing to "establish new US-DPRK relations," "build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula" and recover POW/MIA remains. Kim also committed to "work toward complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula" and Trump committed to provide security guarantees for North Korea.

Delivery Systems

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM)

  • North Korea is actively expanding its ballistic missile arsenal and allegedly working toward developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As of June 2018, North Korea’s operational and developing intercontinental and intermediate-range missiles include:
    • Musudan BM-25 (Hwasong-10): The Musudan BM-25 is an intermediate-range ballistic missile with an expected range of 2500-4000km. It has been flight tested six times, most recently on June 21, 2016.
    • Hwasong-12: On May 14, 2017, North Korea tested another new ballistic missile, the Hwasong-12, which appears to be an intermediate-range, single-stage missile with an estimated range of 4,500 kilometers.
    • KN-08 (Hwasong-13): The KN-08 is an intercontinental ballistic missile under development with an estimated range of 5,500-11,500km. Given that the system has not been tested, however, the range estimates are highly speculative. It was first unveiled in April 2012 and has not yet been tested, although North Korea likely tested the rocket engine for this system.
    • KN-14 (Hwasong-13, KN-08 Mod 2): The KN-14 is an ICBM under development with an estimated range of 8,000-10,000km. Given that the system has not been tested, however, the range estimates are highly speculative. It was first unveiled in October 2015 and is believed to be a variant of the KN-08.
    • Hwasong-14: The Hwasong-14 is an ICBM, first tested July 4, 2017 and tested again on July 28, 2017. It is a two-stage, liquid-fueled missile. The tests were conducted at a lofted trajectory. The first test showed a range of about 6,700km at a standard trajectory. The second test showed a range of 10,400km, not taking into account the rotation of the earth.
    • Hwasong-15: The Hwasong-15 is an ICBM first tested November 29, 2017 at a lofted trajectory. On a standard trajectory, the missile would have an estimated range of 13,000km. It is a two-stage, liquid fueled system. Photos of the missile suggest that it has sufficient thrust and payload space to deliver a 1,000kg payload anywhere in the United States and could be fitted with decoys or penetration aids. The missile also features qualitative updates from the Hwasong-14, including an improved steering mechanism. 
    • Taepodong-2: The inaugural flight test of the Taepodong-2, ended in failure about 40 seconds after launch on July 5, 2006. Subsequent tests of the Taepodong-2 missile in April 2009 and April 2012 were also unsuccessful. The Taepodong-2 is believed to be capable of reaching the United States if developed as an ICBM.

Space-Launched Vehicles (SLV)

  • Unha-3: North Korea's SLV is a three-stage liquid fueled system, likely based on the Taepodong-2.
  • In February 2012, North Korea agreed to cease long-range missile tests in exchange for food aid from the United States. North Korea stated that the agreement did not cover space launch vehicles and proceeded to launch the Unha in April 2012. The SLV exploded shortly after launch. The United States contended that the agreement did cover SLVs, causing the agreement, known as the Leap Day Deal, to fall apart.
  • On December 12, 2012, North Korea claimed that it successfully launched a satellite into space using its Unha rocket. It placed a second satellite into orbit in February 2016.

Short and Medium Range Missiles 

  • North Korea’s short-range and medium-range missiles include:

Submarines and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)

  • North Korea is developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the KN-11, also known as the Pukkuksong-1 or Polaris-1. It has an estimated range of 1,200km. 
  • The KN-11 was first tested in December 2014, and images from the missile first emerged after a May 2015 test at the Sinpo site. Photos released by the KNCA portrayed the test as a submarine launch, but the missile was likely fired from a submerged barge.
  • The KN-11 was most recently tested on August 24, 2016. It is estimated to become operational by 2020
  • Since October 2014, activity at the Sinpo South Shipyard indicates that North Korea may be using an experimental SINPO-class submarine as a test bed for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Fissile Material

Plutonium

  • Experts assess that North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests likely used plutonium, which North Korea was known to have produced at weapons-grade levels.
  • North Korea announced its intention to restart its Yongbyon 5MWe Reactor for plutonium production in April 2013, after disabling it as a part of the six-party talks in 2007. North Korea declared the site to be “fully operational” by late August 2015. 
  • The reactor is capable of producing six kg of weapons-grade plutonium each year. 
  • Satellite imagery from April 2016, January 2017, and April 2018 confirmed increased activity at the reprocessing site.
  • As of January 2018, North Korea is estimated to possess 20-40 kg of plutonium.

Highly Enriched Uranium

  • While Pyongyang has constructed a gas centrifuge facility, it is unknown if the facility is producing uranium enriched to weapons-grade.
  • In November 2010, North Korea unveiled a large uranium-enrichment plant to former officials and academics from the United States. The Yongbyon plant contained approximately 2,000 gas centrifuges that were claimed to be operating and producing low-enriched uranium (LEU) for a light-water reactor (LWR) that North Korea is constructing. This plant is estimated to be capable of producing two metric tons of LEU each year, enough to fuel the LWR reactor under construction, or to produce 40 kg of highly-enriched uranium (HEU), enough for one to two nuclear weapons.
  • As of January 2018, North Korea is estimated to possess 250-500 kg of uranium.

Proliferation Record

Missiles:

  • North Korea has been a key supplier of missiles and missile technology to countries in the Middle East and South Asia including Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen.
  • Such transfers are believed to be one of Pyongyang’s primary sources of hard currency.
  • Although clientele for North Korea's missile exports appear to have dwindled in recent years due to U.S. pressure and UN sanctions, Iran and Syria remain customers of North Korean missile assistance. A February 2016 Congressional report confirmed that both Syria and Iran have received missile technology from North Korea. While Syria has also engaged in nuclear technology cooperation with North Korea, the report found no evidence that Iran has done so.
  • Pyongyang is widely believed to have provided missile cooperation to Burma.

Nuclear

  • North Korea has a history of circumventing sanctions to import and export dual-use materials relevant to nuclear and ballistic missile activities and to sell conventional arms and military equipment. A UN panel of exports reports annually on adherence to UN Security Council sanctions and illicit trafficking. A few examples include:
    • North Korea helped Syria to build an undeclared nuclear reactor in al-Kibar based on its own Yongbyon reactor. In 2007, the reactor, which was under construction, was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.
    • In November 2012, North Korea allegedly attempted to sell graphite rods to Syria.

Nuclear Doctrine

North Korea declared in January 2016 it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is under threat and stated North Korea will “faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for the global denuclearization.” Kim Jong Un reiterated this policy in May 2016 when he said that North Korea will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is “encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces” with nuclear weapons. This sentiment was again repeated by Kim Jong Un during his 2018 New Year's Address

North Korea’s constitution was amended in 2013 to describe itself as a “nuclear state and an unchallengeable military power.”

Given that North Korea typically does not describe its nuclear activities accurately, it is unclear to what extent Pyongyang would abide by this declared doctrine.

Biological Weapons

  • Pyongyang is believed to maintain a biological weapons capability.
  • The United States intelligence community continues to judge that North Korea has a biotechnology infrastructure to support such a capability, and has a munitions production capacity that could be used to weaponize biological agents.
  • North Korea maintains the modern Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute, purportedly a pesticide factory, equipped with dual-use equipment that can be used to maintain a biological weapons capability and, as of 2017, is likely intended to produce “military-size” batches of anthrax.

Chemical Weapons

Additional Resources on North Korea

  1. Factsheet: Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy 
  2. Factsheet: UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea 
  3. Factsheet: The Six-Party Talks at a Glance 
  4. Factsheet: The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance 
  5. Issue Brief, February 2017: Recalibrating U.S. Policy Toward North Korea
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Posted: June 22, 2018

The Six-Party Talks at a Glance

June 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: June 2018

The six-party talks were a series of multilateral negotiations held intermittently since 2003 and attended by China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States for the purpose of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. The talks were hosted in Beijing and chaired by China. North Korea decided to no longer participate in the six-party process in 2009. In subsequent years, other participants, notably China, have called periodically for a resumption of the process. 

Leading up to the Six-Party Talks

The United States and North Korea negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework amidst rising concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, including North Korea’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The agreement halted that decision and as part of the accord, North Korea pledged to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid, including two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors.

The Agreed Framework collapsed in October 2002 due to alleged violations from both sides. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly claimed that in a bilateral meeting, North Korea had admitted it possessed a uranium-enrichment program, which Pyongyang denied, and which would violate the deal. The United States was slow to deliver the energy aid promised in the agreement. The construction of the future light-water reactors was far behind schedule. The first reactor was initially slated for completion in 2003 but was not likely to be operational until 2008 at the earliest. See the U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance for more information. In January 2003, North Korea declared its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). For more information, see Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy.

In early August 2003, North Korea declared its willingness to attend six-party talks to be held in Beijing. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, the six-party talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement. While the steps were never fully realized, and North Korea remains outside of the NPT, Pyongyang did disable the nuclear reactor that produced plutonium for its weapons program.

First Round

The First Round of talks began August 27, 2003 in Beijing. The initial North Korean position called for a normalization of relations and a non-aggression pact with the United States, without which, Pyongyang maintained, a dismantling of its nuclear program would be out of the question. The United States had previously rejected a non-aggression pact proposal earlier that summer and remained firm on that point during the talks; this stumbling block precluded any substantive agreement in the First Round. On the second day of talks, the North Korean delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong Il stated that North Korea would test a nuclear weapon soon to prove that it had acquired that ability.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi outlined six points of consensus that had been reached by the end of the round. These included a commitment to work to resolve the nuclear issue through peaceful means and dialogue, pursuing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula while bearing in mind the security of North Korea, and avoiding acts that would aggravate the situation further.

Second Round

While China called for a return to the forum, South Korea, Japan, and the United States met separately to discuss joint strategies for the next round and possibilities for a verifiable inspection system. In late October 2003, China secured an agreement from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to return to the six-party talks, after U.S. President George W. Bush expressed an openness to providing informal security assurances short of a non-aggression pact or peace treaty. The United States, however, still would not allow its diplomats to hold direct talks with North Korean negotiators and demanded unilateral concessions on the part of Pyongyang. The central U.S. demand was that North Korea declare its willingness to the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement” of its nuclear programs, a policy that had come to be known as CVID.

The Second Round of talks began February 25, 2004. On the second day of talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Russian lead negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Losiukov, both reported that North Korea had offered to destroy its nuclear weapons program, but would not discontinue its peaceful nuclear activities. This represented a partial reversal from its January offer. While both China and Russia supported an agreement on this new basis, the United States, Japan, and South Korea insisted that the North eliminate all of its nuclear facilities and programs. U.S. officials believed that the North Korean civil nuclear program was impractical for economic use and was likely a front for other activities.

The Chairman’s paper that was eventually circulated at the end of the discussions in lieu of a joint statement did not include any initial steps agreements, but reaffirmed all parties’ commitment to a nuclear-weapons-free Korean peninsula.

Third Round

On June 23, 2004, the six states reconvened to begin the Third Round of negotiations. Expectations were muted by uncertainties generated by the Presidential election in the United States later that year.

In the run up to the talks, the United States circulated its first set of formal proposals for a step-by-step dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program. (See ACT, July 2004.) The proposal granted North Korea a three-month preparatory period to freeze its programs, and also requested the transmittal of a full account of activities. South Korea presented a similar proposal that largely adhered to the base U.S. demand for CVID. At the opening ceremony of the Third Round, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan reiterated that his country was willing to accept a “freeze for compensation” program that would lead to renunciation of its nuclear weapons program.

Again lacking the consensus necessary for a joint statement, a Chairman’s statement was issued instead. In addition to reaffirming commitments made previously, the parties stressed the need for a “words for words” and “action for action” process towards resolution of the crisis.

Fourth Round

Nearly a year of uncertainty divided the Third and Fourth Rounds of the six-party talks. In part, this was due to the Presidential election in the United States, which took place in early November 2004 and resulted in a second term of office for George W. Bush. North Korea stated that it intended to wait for a restatement of the second Bush administration’s policies before deciding on whether to attend the next round of talks.

In early February 2005, North Korea declared itself in possession of nuclear weapons and said it would not attend future six-party talks. It accused the United States of attempting to overthrow its government and referred to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statement in her confirmation hearing that North Korea was an “outpost of tyranny.” Finally, following a July 2005 meeting in Beijing with the new U.S. lead negotiator Christopher Hill, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan announced that his country would be willing to attend a new round of talks during the week of July 25, 2005.

One of the inducements which drew North Korea back to the negotiating table was a U.S. recognition of North Korea as a sovereign state coupled with a statement that it had no intention to invade North Korea. These were reiterated on the first day of negotiations. The resulting talks were considerably longer than previous rounds, lasting a full 13 days. The United States softened its opposition to a North Korean civil energy program, while a joint statement based on resurrection of a 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that barred the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons was discussed. The United States also engaged in lengthy bilateral discussions with the North Korean delegation, lifting prior restrictions prohibiting U.S. negotiators from engaging the North Koreans directly.

On September 19, 2005, the six parties achieved the first breakthrough in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis, issuing a joint statement on agreed steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “in a phased manner in line with the principle of commitment for commitment, action for action.”

North Korea committed itself to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing programs, returning to the NPT and accepting IAEA inspections. In return, the other parties expressed their respect for North Korea’s assertion of a right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and agreed to discuss the provision of a light water nuclear reactor “at an appropriate time.” The United States and South Korea both affirmed that they would not deploy nuclear weapons on the peninsula, and stated, along with Russia, China, and Japan, their willingness to supply North Korea with energy aid. The United States and Japan, further, committed themselves to working to normalizing relations with North Korea.

The day after the Joint Statement was agreed, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry declared that the United States should provide a light water reactor “as early as possible.” (See ACT, November 2005.) Although Pyongyang appeared to back away from that demand in the following days, disagreements over the timing of discussions on the provision of such a reactor remained.

Fifth Round

The next round of talks began on November 9, 2005 and lasted three days. The Six Parties expressed their views on how the Joint Statement should be implemented, but no new achievements were registered and substantial negotiations were neither attempted nor envisioned. U.S. lead negotiator Christopher Hill said, “We were not expecting to make any major breakthroughs.” The meeting concluded without setting a date for the next round of talks.

Following the end of the first session, the negotiating climate deteriorated significantly. U.S. sanctions on North Korean trading entities as well as Banco Delta Asia of Macau provoked strong condemnation from Pyongyang. North Korea boycotted the six-party talks once again, and conducted multiple missile tests in July and its first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.

In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1718 on October 14, requiring North Korea to refrain from further nuclear or missile testing, abandon its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missile programs, and immediately rejoin the six-party talks.

Further discussions resumed in February 2007 which concluded in an agreement on initial steps to implement the 2005 Joint Statement.  The February 13 agreement called for steps to be taken over the next 60 days in which North Korea committed to shutting down and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and to discussing a list of its nuclear-related activities with the other parties. The United States and Japan committed to engaging in talks to normalize relations, while all parties would work to provide 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, all within the 60 day period. The United States also agreed to begin the process of removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with regards to North Korea. The agreement set a March 19, 2007 date for a Sixth Round of talks and outlined a framework for follow-on actions by the six parties to implement the September 2005 Joint Statement.

Sixth Round

The next round of talks began on time but came to no substantive agreement in its initial sessions after the North Korean delegation walked out over delays in the release of funds from the sanctioned Banco Delta Asia. Diplomats had been optimistic that issues surrounding the bank had been temporarily resolved, but a technical delay in the transmittal of funds led to the announcement of another adjournment.

The IAEA confirmed in July 2007 that the 5 megawatt Yongbyon nuclear reactor had been shut down and sealed. When talks resumed in September-October 2007, a second phase implementation plan was agreed upon which called for the disablement of three key nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex and the provision of a list of North Korean nuclear activities, both by the end of the year. North Korea further committed to not transferring nuclear materials, technology, or know-how to other parties. The other parties agreed to increase aid to North Korea to a total of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or fuel oil equivalents and to a continuation of the diplomatic normalization processes.

Following numerous delays in implementation, U.S. and North Korean negotiators met in Singapore in April 2008 and agreed on three steps through which North Korea would detail or address its nuclear activities: a declaration provided by North Korea regarding its plutonium program, the publication of a U.S. "bill of particulars" detailing Washington's suspicions of a North Korean uranium-enrichment program and Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation to other countries, and a North Korean understanding of the U.S. concerns. (See ACT June, 2008.)

Further six-party talks continued in June 2008, ending with the transmittal of North Korea’s declaration of nuclear activities. At the same time, U.S. President Bush announced that he had removed North Korea from the Trading with the Enemy Act and had notified Congress of the country’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Difficulties in agreeing on a verification system delayed the second action until October 11, 2008. The need for a verification system had been reaffirmed in a July 12 joint communiqué issued by the six parties. An August 11, 2008 proposal from the United States to allow verification inspections at sites throughout North Korea was rejected emphatically. Insisting that inspections be limited to Yongbyon, North Korea announced that it was reversing disablement actions and said it would restart its reprocessing plant. A verbal agreement was established after Hill visited Pyongyang in early October. The agreement allowed for inspections outside of Yongbyon when China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States agreed by consensus.

Progress again foundered in November when North Korea denied that it had committed in the verbal agreement to allowing the collection of samples at Yongbyon. Another session of six-party talks in December yielded no new consensus. North Korea maintained that if sampling were to take place, it would not be during second phase implementation.

On April 5, 2009, after repeated warnings from the United States, Japan and South Korea, Pyongyang test-fired a modified Taepo Dong-2 three-stage rocket, ostensibly as part of its civilian space program. The UN Security Council issued a presidential statement April 13 calling the test a violation of Resolution 1718, and expanded sanctions on North Korean firms shortly afterwards. North Korea responded on April 14, declaring that it would no longer participate in the six-party talks and that it would no longer be bound by any of the previous agreements reached in the discussions.

Since the last round of talks, each of the parties involved has at times called for their resumption. In December 2010, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States called for an emergency session of the six-party talks. In 2014, a North Korean special envoy told Russian President Vladimir Putin that North Korea would be ready to resume the six-party talks. China has continued to call from their resumption, as recently as August 2017. However, there has been little progress towards continuing the six-party talks recently.

Agreements and Declarations from the Six-Party Talks

Research by Xiaodon Liang

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: June 21, 2018

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