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North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program
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North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program



Nuclear Weapons History - 1970 to 2003

North Korea has been attempting to obtain nuclear weapons since the late 1970s. Early attempts involved plutonium produced by heavy water reactor plants, with a plant at Yongbyon completed. By 1994, the United States believed that North Korea had enough reprocessed plutonium to produce about 10 bombs with the amount of plutonium increasing. Faced with diplomatic pressure and the threat of American military airstrikes against the reactor, North Korea agreed to dismantle its plutonium program as part of the Agreed Framework in which South Korea and the United States would provide North Korea with light water reactors and fuel oil until those reactors would be complete. Because the light water reactors would require enriched uranium to be imported from outside North Korea, the amount of reactor fuel and waste could be more easily tracked making it more difficult to divert nuclear waste to be reprocessed into plutonium.

However, with the abandonment of its plutonium program, North Korea secretly began a program to build a bomb based on enriched uranium. Pakistan, a nuclear-weapon country, supplied key technology and information to North Korea in exchange for missiles to use in the India-Pakistan conflict around 1997, according to U.S. intelligence officials. This program was publicized in October 2002 when the United States asked about the program to North Korean officials and to the surprise of the United States, the North Korean officials admitted the existence of the program.

In October, 2002, North Korea publicly admitted to running a clandestine nuclear weapons program. This was widely seen as a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1994 U.S.-North Korea nuclear pact signed during the Clinton administration. North Korean officials stated that the reactivation of their weapon of mass destruction program was in response to "imperialist threats" (presumably the United States). The United States proceeded to stop shipments of fuel oil under the Agreed Framework.

In late December 2002 North Korea expelled United Nations weapons inspectors, and announced plans to reactivate a dormant nuclear fuel processing laboratory and power plant north of Pyongyang, if the United States did not agree to a non invasion pact. This nuclear reactor is thought by U.S. officials to be the source for plutonium for two previously produced atomic bombs.

Even though US President George W. Bush had named North Korea as part of an "Axis of Evil" following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, US officials stated that the United States was not planning any immediate military action. This was seen by many as contrary to the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive military action aimed at preventing rogue nations and groups from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. (See: George W. Bush administration policy toward North Korea and US plan to invade Iraq)

Diplomatic efforts at resolving the North Korean situation are complicated by the different goals and interests of the nations of the region. While none of the parties desires a North Korea with nuclear weapons, South Korea and Japan are very concerned about North Korean counterstrikes in case of military action against Korea. China and South Korea are also very worried about the economic and social consequences should this situation cause the North Korean government to collapse.

On January 10, 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

On January 23, 2003, North Korea and South Korea agree to find peaceful solution to nuclear crisis. On January 27, 2003, former US President Bill Clinton urged the Bush government to sign a non-aggression pact with North Korea, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He argued that poverty was driving it to sell missiles and bombs, being its cash crop. The United States should "give them a nonaggression pact if they want that, because we'd never attack them unless they did something that violated that pact anyway."

Officials from the United States stated on February 26, 2003 that North Korea had reactivated a reactor at its main nuclear complex.

In a continuing show of force, armed North Korean fighter aircraft intercepted and may have targeted a United States reconnaissance aircraft over International Waters in the Sea of Japan on March 2, 2003. That was the first such interception since April 1969 when a North Korean jet shot down a United States Navy surveillance airplane, killing all 31 crewmen aboard.

On March 6, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed that the United States is considering completely withdrawing US troops from South Korea.


Detailed Timeline - 1989 – current


  • 1989: Soviet control of communist governments throughout Europe begins to weaken and the Cold War comes to a close. Post-Soviet states emerge in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As the USSR's power declines, North Korea loses the security guarantees and economic support that had sustained it for 45 years. Through satellite photos, the U.S. learns of new construction at a nuclear complex near the North Korean town of Yongbyon. U.S. intelligence analysts suspect that North Korea, which had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985 but had not yet allowed inspections of its nuclear facilities, is in the early stages of building an atomic bomb.In response, the U.S. pursues a strategy in which North Korea's full compliance with the NPT would lead to progress on other diplomatic issues, such as the normalization of relations.
  • 1991: The U.S. withdrew its last nuclear weapons from South Korea in December 1991, though U.S. affirmation of this action was not clear, resulting in rumors persisting that nuclear weapons remained in South Korea. The U.S. had deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea since January 1958, peaking in number at some 950 warheads in 1967.
  • 1992: In May, for the first time, North Korea allows a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), then headed by Hans Blix, to visit the facility at Yongbyon. Blix and the U.S. suspect that North Korea is secretly using its five-megawatt reactor and reprocessing facility at Yongbyon to turn spent fuel into weapons-grade plutonium. Before leaving, Blix arranges for fully equipped inspection teams to follow.

    The inspections do not go well. Over the next several months, the North Koreans repeatedly block inspectors from visiting two of Yongbyon's suspected nuclear waste sites and IAEA inspectors find evidence that the country is not revealing the full extent of its plutonium production.

    In an interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, former Secretary of State James Baker let it slip that North Korea “... had a rudimentary nuclear weapon way back in the days when I was secretary of state, but now this is a more advanced one evidently.” He was Secretary of State between 1989 and 1992.
  • 1993: In March, North Korea threatens to withdraw from the NPT. Facing heavy domestic pressure from Republicans who oppose negotiations with North Korea, President Bill Clinton appoints Robert Gallucci to start a new round of negotiations. After 89 days, North Korea announces it has suspended its withdrawal. (The NPT requires three months notice before a country can withdraw.) In December, IAEA Director-General Blix announces that the agency can no longer provide "any meaningful assurances" that North Korea is not producing nuclear weapons.

  • 12 October, 1994: the United States and North Korea signed the "Agreed Framework": North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium production program in exchange for fuel oil, economic cooperation, and the construction of two modern light-water nuclear power plants. Eventually, North Korea's existing nuclear facilities were to be dismantled, and the spent reactor fuel taken out of the country.
  • 26 October, 1994: IAEA Chairman Hans Blix tells the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee the IAEA is "not very happy" with the Agreed Framework because it gives North Korea too much time to begin complying with the inspections regime.
  • 18 March, 1996: Hans Blix tells the IAEA's Board of Governors North Korea has still not made its initial declaration of the amount of plutonium they possess, as required under the Agreed Framework, and warned that without the declaration IAEA would lose the ability to verify North Korea was not using its plutonium to develop weapons.
  • October 1997: spent nuclear fuel rods were encased in steel containers, under IAEA inspection.
  • 31 August, 1998: North Korea launched a modified Taepodong-1 missile in a launch attempt of its Kwangmyongsong satellite. US Military analysts suspect satellite launch is a ruse for the testing of an ICBM. This missile flew over Japan causing the Japanese government to retract 1 billion in aid for two civilian light-water reactors.


  • 2002
  • 29 January: U.S. President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address named North Korea as part of the axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world and posing a grave danger.
  • 7 August: "First Concrete" pouring at the construction site of the light-water nuclear power plants being built by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization under the 1994 Agreed Framework. Construction of both reactors was many years behind the agreement's target completion date of 2003.
  • 17 September: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi becomes the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pyongyang, making a number of political and cooperative offers. This support for the Sunshine Policy was seen by some in the U.S. as a threat to American influence in Korea.
  • 3-5 October: On a visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang, US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly presses the North on suspicions that it is continuing to pursue a nuclear energy and missiles programme. Mr Kelly says he has evidence of a secret uranium-enriching programme carried out in defiance of the 1994 Agreed Framework. Under this deal, North Korea agreed to forsake nuclear ambitions in return for the construction of two safer light water nuclear power reactors and oil shipments from the US.
  • 16 October: The US announces that North Korea admitted in their talks to a secret nuclear arms programme.
  • 17 October: Initially the North appears conciliatory. Leader Kim Jong-il says he will allow international weapons inspectors to check that nuclear facilities are out of use.
  • 20 October: North-South Korea talks in Pyongyang are undermined by the North's nuclear programme "admission". US Secretary of State Colin Powell says further US aid to North Korea is now in doubt. The North adopts a mercurial stance, at one moment defiantly defending its "right" to weapons development and at the next offering to halt nuclear programmes in return for aid and the signing of a "non-aggression" pact with the US. It argues that the US has not kept to its side of the Agreed Framework, as the construction of the light water reactors - due to be completed in 2003 - is now years behind schedule.
  • 14 November: US President George W Bush declares November oil shipments to the North will be the last if the North does not agree to put a halt to its weapons ambitions.
  • 18 November: Confusion clouds a statement by North Korea in which it initially appears to acknowledge having nuclear weapons. A key Korean phrase understood to mean the North does have nuclear weapons could have been mistaken for the phrase "entitled to have", Seoul says.
  • 27 November: The North accuses the US of deliberately misinterpreting its contested statement, twisting an assertion of its "right" to possess weapons into an "admission" of possession. December: South Korean presidential election. The Grand National Party, who opposed the Sunshine Policy, made much of the North Korean situation, although it eventually lost the election.
  • 4 December: The North rejects a call to open its nuclear facilities to inspection.
  • 11 December: North Korean-made Scud missiles are found aboard a ship bound for Yemen. The US illegally detains the ship, but is later forced to allow the ship to go, conceding that neither country has broken any law.
  • 12 December: The North pledges to reactivate nuclear facilities for energy generation, saying the Americans' decision to halt oil shipments leaves it with no choice. It claims the US wrecked the 1994 pact.
  • 13 December: North Korea asks the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to remove seals and surveillance equipment - the IAEA's "eyes and ears" on the North's nuclear status - from its Yongbyon power plant.
  • 22 December: The North begins removing monitoring devices from the Yongbyon plant.
  • 24 December: North Korea begins repairs at the Yongbyon plant. North-South Korea talks over reopening road and rail border links, which have been struggling on despite the increased tension, finally stall.
  • 25 December: It emerges that North Korea had begun shipping fuel rods to the Yongbyon plant which could be used to produce plutonium.
  • 26 December: The IAEA expresses concern in the light of UN confirmation that 1,000 fuel rods have been moved to the Yongbyon reactor.
  • 27 December: North Korea says it is expelling the two IAEA nuclear inspectors from the country. It also says it is planning to reopen a reprocessing plant, which could start producing weapons grade plutonium within months.


  • 2003
  • 2 January: South Korea asks China to use its influence with North Korea to try to reduce tension over the nuclear issue, and two days later Russia offers to press Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme.
  • 6 January: The IAEA passes a resolution demanding that North Korea readmit UN inspectors and abandon its secret nuclear weapons programme "within weeks", or face possible action by the UN Security Council.
  • 7 January: The US says it is "willing to talk to North Korea about how it meets its obligations to the international community". But it "will not provide quid pro quos to North Korea to live up to its existing obligations".
  • 9 January: North Korea agrees to hold cabinet-level talks with South Korea on 21 January.
  • 10 January: North Korea announces it will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • 24 January: Cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea end without making progress. South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun proposes face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-il.
  • 28 January: In his annual State of the Union address, President Bush alleges North Korea is "an oppressive regime [whose] people live in fear and starvation". He accuses North Korea of deception over its nuclear ambitions and says "America and the world will not be blackmailed".
  • 29 January: North Korea says Mr Bush's speech is an "undisguised declaration of aggression to topple the DPRK system" and dubs him a "shameless charlatan". At the same time, however, it reiterates its demand for bilateral talks on a non-aggression pact. 31 January: Unnamed American officials are quoted as saying that spy satellites have tracked movement at the Yongbyon plant throughout January, prompting fears that North Korea is trying to reprocess plutonium for nuclear bombs. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer delivers a stern warning that North Korea must not take "yet another provocative action... intended to intimidate and blackmail the international community".
  • 4 February: The United States says it is considering new military deployments in the Pacific Ocean to back up its forces in South Korea, as a deterrent against any North Korean aggression, in the event that the US unleashes aggression on Iraq.
  • 5 February: North Korea says it has reactivated its nuclear facilities and their operations are now going ahead "on a normal footing".
  • 6 February: North Korea warns the United States that any decision to build up its troops in the region could lead the North to make a pre-emptive attack on American forces.
  • 12 February: The IAEA finds North Korea in breach of nuclear safeguards and refers the matter to the UN security council.
  • 16 February: Kim Jong-il celebrates his 61st birthday, but state media warns North Korean citizens to be on "high alert".
  • 17 February: The US and South Korea announce that they will hold joint military exercises in March.
  • 24 February: North Korea fires a missile into the sea between South Korea and Japan.
  • 25 February: Roh Moo-hyun sworn in as South Korean president. 2 March: Four North Korean fighter jets intercept a US reconnaissance plane in international air space and shadow it for 22 minutes.
  • 10 March: North Korea fires a second missile into the sea between South Korea and Japan in as many weeks.
  • 22 March: As a blistering bombing campaign pounds the Iraqi capital, and South Korean and US forces perform military exercises on its doorstep, a jumpy North denounces their "confrontational posture" and calls off talks with the South.
  • 1 April: The US announces that "stealth" fighters sent to South Korea for a training exercise are to stay on once the exercises end.
  • 7 April: Ministerial talks between North and South Korea are cancelled after Pyongyang fails to confirm they would take place.
  • 9 April: The United Nations Security Council expresses concern about North Korea's nuclear programme, but fails to condemn Pyongyang for pulling out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
  • 12 April: In a surprise move, North Korea signals it may be ready to end its insistence on direct talks with the US, announcing that "if the US is ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue, [North Korea] will not stick to any particular dialogue format".
  • 18 April: North Korea announces that it has started reprocessing its spent fuel rods. The statement is later amended to read that Pyongyang has been "successfully going forward to reprocess" the rods.
  • 23 April: Talks begin in Beijing between the US and North Korea, hosted by China. The talks are led by the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian affairs, James Kelly, and the deputy director general of North Korea's American Affairs Bureau, Li Gun.
  • 24 April: American officials say Pyongyang has told them that it now has nuclear weapons, after the first direct talks for months between the US and North Korea in Beijing end a day early.
  • 25 April: Talks end amid mutual recrimination, after the US says North Korea had made its first admission that it possessed nuclear weapons.
  • 28 April: US Secretary of State Colin Powell says North Korea made an offer to US officials, during the talks in Beijing, to scrap its nuclear programme in exchange for major concessions from the United States. He does not specify what those concessions are, but reports say that Pyongyang wants normalised relations with the US and economic assistance. Mr Powell says Washington is studying the offer.
  • 5 May: North Korea demands the US respond to what it terms the "bold proposal" it made during the Beijing talks.
  • 12 May: North Korea says it is scrapping a 1992 agreement with the South to keep the peninsula free from nuclear weapons - Pyongyang's last remaining international agreement on non-proliferation.
  • 15 May: South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun meets US President George W Bush in Washington for talks on how to handle North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
  • 2 June: A visiting delegation of US congressmen led by Curt Weldon says North Korean officials admitted the country had nuclear weapons had "just about completed" reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods which would allow it to build more.
  • 9 June: North Korea says publicly that it will build a nuclear deterrent, "unless the US gives up its hostile policy".
  • 13 June: South Korea's Yonhap news agency says North Korean officials told the US on 30 June that it had completed reprocessing the fuel rods.
  • 18 June: North Korea says it will "put further spurs to increasing its nuclear deterrent force for self-defence".
  • 9 July: South Korea's spy agency says North Korea has started reprocessing a "small number" of the 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods at Yongbyon.
  • 1 August: North Korea agrees to six-way talks on its nuclear programme, South Korea confirms. The US, Japan, China and Russia will also be involved.
  • 27-29 August: Six-nation talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear programme. The meeting fails to bridge the gap between Washington and Pyongyang. Delegates agree to meet again.
  • 2 October: North Korea announces publicly it has reprocessed the spent fuel rods.
  • 16 October: North Korea says it will "physically display" its nuclear deterrent.
  • 30 October: North Korea agrees to resume talks on the nuclear crisis, after saying it is prepared to consider the US offer of a security guarantee in return for ending its nuclear programme.
  • 21 November: Kedo, the international consortium formed to build 'tamper-proof' nuclear power plants in North Korea, decides to suspend the project.
  • 9 December: North Korea offers to "freeze" its nuclear programme in return for a list of concessions from the US. It says that unless Washington agrees, it will not take part in further talks. The US rejects North Korea's offer. President George W Bush says Pyongyang must dismantle the programme altogether.
  • 27 December: North Korea says it will take part in a new round of six-party talks on its nuclear programme in early 2004.


  • 2004
  • 2 January: South Korea confirms that the North has agreed to allow a group of US experts, including a top nuclear scientist, visit Yongbyon nuclear facility.
  • 10 January: The unofficial US team visits the North's "nuclear deterrent" facility at Yongbyon.
  • 22 January: US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker tells Congress that the delegates visiting Yongbyon were shown what appeared to be weapons-grade plutonium, but he did not see any evidence of a nuclear bomb.
  • 3 February: North Korea reports that the next round of six-party talks on the nuclear crisis will be held on 25 February.
  • 25 February: Second round of six nation talks end without breakthrough in Beijing.
  • 23 May: The UN atomic agency is reported to be investigating allegations that North Korea secretly sent uranium to Libya when Tripoli was trying to develop nuclear weapons.
  • 23 June: Third round of six nation talks held in Beijing, with the US making a new offer to allow North Korea fuel aid if it freezes then dismantles its nuclear programmes.
  • 2 July: US Secretary of State Colin Powell meets the North Korean Foreign Minister, Paek Nam-sun, in the highest-level talks between the two countries since the crisis erupted.
  • 24 July: North Korea rejects US suggestions that it follow Libya's lead and give up its nuclear ambitions, calling the US proposal a daydream.
  • 3 August: North Korea is in the process of developing a new missile system for ships or submarines, according to a report in Jane's Defence Weekly.
  • 23 August: North Korea describes US President George W Bush as an "imbecile" and a "tyrant that puts Hitler in the shade", in response to comments President Bush made describing the North's Kim Jong-il as a "tyrant".
  • 12 September: Clinton Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright admits North Korean "cheating" on the Agreed Framework occurred during the "Clinton Watch."
  • 28 September: North Korea says it has turned plutonium from 8,000 spent fuel rods into nuclear weapons. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon said the weapons were needed for "self-defence" against "US nuclear threat".


  • 2005
  • 14 January: North Korea says it is willing to restart stalled talks on its nuclear programme, according to the official KCNA news agency. The statement says North Korea "would not stand against the US but respect and treat it as a friend unless the latter slanders the former's system and interferes in its internal affairs".
  • 19 January: Condoleezza Rice, President George W Bush's nominee as secretary of state, identifies North Korea as one of six "outposts of tyranny" where the US must help bring freedom.
  • 10 February: North Korea says it is suspending its participation in the talks over its nuclear programme for an "indefinite period", blaming the Bush administration's intention to "antagonise, isolate and stifle it at any cost". The statement also repeats North Korea's assertion to have built nuclear weapons for self-defence.
  • 18 April: South Korea says North Korea has shut down its Yongbyon reactor, a move which could allow it to extract more fuel for nuclear weapons.
  • 1 May: North Korea fires a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, on the eve of a meeting of members of the international Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • 11 May: North Korea says it has completed extraction of spent fuel rods from Yongbyon, as part of plans to "increase its nuclear arsenal".
  • 16 May: North and South Korea hold their first talks in 10 months, with the North seeking fertilizer for its troubled agriculture sector.
  • 25 May: The US suspends efforts to recover the remains of missing US servicemen in North Korea, saying restrictions placed on its work were too great.
  • 7 June: China's envoy to the UN says he expects North Korea to rejoin the six-nation talks "in the next few weeks".
  • 22 June: North Korea requests more food aid from the South during ministerial talks in Seoul, the first for a year.
  • 9 July: North Korea says it will rejoin nuclear talks, as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begins a tour of the region.
  • 12 July: South Korea offers the North huge amounts of electricity as an incentive to end its nuclear weapons programme.
  • 25 July: Fourth round of six-nation talks begins in Beijing.
  • 7 August: The talks reach deadlock and a recess is called.
  • 13 September: Talks resume. North Korea requests the building of the light-water reactors promised in the Agreed Framework, but the U.S. refuses, prompting warnings of a "standoff" between the parties.
  • 19 September: In what is initially hailed as an historic joint statement, North Korea agrees to give up all its nuclear activities and rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the US says it had no intention of attacking.
  • 20 September: North Korea says it will not scrap its nuclear programme until it is given a civilian nuclear reactor, undermining the joint statement and throwing further talks into doubt.
  • 7 December: A senior US diplomat brands North Korea a "criminal regime" involved in arms sales, drug trafficking and currency forgery. North Korea’s arm sales at the time are approximately 0.4% of those of the U.S.
  • 20 December: North Korea says it intends to resume building nuclear reactors, because the US had pulled out of a key deal to build it two new reactors.


  • 2006
  • 12 April: A two-day meeting aimed at persuading North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear programme fails to resolve the deadlock.
  • 26 June: A report by the Institute for Science and International Security estimates that current North Korea plutonium stockpiles is sufficient for four to thirteen nuclear weapons.
  • 3 July: Washington dismisses a threat by North Korea that it will launch a nuclear strike against the US in the event of an American attack, as a White House spokesman described the threat as "deeply hypothetical".
  • 4 July: North Korea test-fires at least six missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2, despite repeated warnings from the international community.
  • 5 July: North Korea test-fires a seventh missile, despite international condemnation of its earlier launches.
  • 6 July: North Korea announces it would continue to launch missiles, as well as "stronger steps", if international countries were to apply additional pressure as a result of the latest missile launches, claiming it to be their sovereign right to carry out these tests. A US television network also reports that they have quoted intelligence sources in saying that North Korea is readying another Taepodong-2 long-range missile for launch.
  • 3 October: North Korea announces plans to test a nuclear weapon in the future, blaming "hostile US policy." Their full text can be read here
  • 5 October: A US envoy directly threatens North Korea as to the upcoming test, stating "It (North Korea) can have a future or it can have these (nuclear) weapons, it cannot have them both." The envoy also mentions that any attempt to test a nuclear device would be seen as a "highly provocative act."
  • 6 October: The United Nations Security Council issues a statement declaring, "The Security Council urges the DPRK not to undertake such a test and to refrain from any action that might aggravate tension, to work on the resolution of non-proliferation concerns and to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through political and diplomatic efforts. Later in the day, there are unconfirmed reports of the North Korean government successfully testing a nuclear bomb."
  • 9 October: North Korea announces that it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapon test. The country's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was performed successfully and there was no radioactive leakage from the site. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. (1:36 a.m. GMT) in Hwaderi near Kilju city, citing defense officials. The USGS detected an earthquake with a preliminary estimated magnitude of 4.2 at 41.311°N, 129.114°E. The USGS coordinate indicates that the location in much north of Hwaderi, near the upper stream of Oran-chon, 17km NNW of Punggye-Yok, according to analysts reports. 10 October: Some western scientists had doubts as to whether the nuclear weapon test that took place on 9 October 2006 was in fact successful. The scientists cite that the measurements recorded only showed an explosion equivalent to 500 metric tons of TNT, as compared to the 1998 nuclear tests that India and Pakistan conducted which were from between 24 - 50 times more powerful. This could indicate that the test resulted in a fizzle. Some also speculated that the test may be a ruse using conventional explosives and nuclear material.
  • 14 October: The United Nations Security Council passed U.N. Resolution 1718, imposing sanctions on North Korea for its announced nuclear test on 9 October 2006 that include largely symbolic steps to hit the North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, a reiteration of financial sanctions that were already in place, as well as keeping luxury goods away from its leaders, for example French wines and spirits or jet skis. However, the sanctions do not have the full support of China and Russia. The resolution was pushed in large part by the administration of George W. Bush, whose party at the time was engaged in an important mid-term election.
  • 27 October: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, based upon U.S. intelligence, announces, "We reached the conclusion that the probability that North Korea conducted a nuclear test is extremely high." He continued on to admit that Japanese aircraft could not confirm the U.S. and South Korean reports.
  • 18 December: The six-party talks resume in what is known as the fifth round, second phase. After a week of negotiations, the parties managed to reaffirm the September 19th declaration, as well as reiterate their parties' stances. For more information, see six-party talks.


  • 2007
  • 13 January: North Korean official Song Il-ho was reported to have told his Japanese counterpart Taku Yamasaki that whether the North Koreans conduct a second nuclear test depends on "US actions in the future".
  • 16 January: In-between-round talks between North Korea and the US are held in Berlin, Germany. Certain areas of agreement have been reached, as confirmed by both sides. North Korea claims these were bilateral negotiations; the US claims these "set the groundwork for the next round of six-party talks".
  • 26 January: On 26 January 2007, Russian chief negotiator Alexander Losyukov told reporters that the third phase was most likely to take place in late January or early February 2007, most likely 5 February - 8 February 2007, before the Lunar New Year.
  • 10 February: Reports emanating from Washington suggest that the CIA reports in 2002 that North Korea was developing uranium enrichment technology overstated or misread the intelligence. U.S. officials are no longer making this a major issue in the six-party talks.
  • 13 February: The fifth round of the six-party talks conclude with an agreement. Pyongyang promises to shut down the Yongbyon reactor in exchange for 50,000 metric tons of fuel aid, with more to follow upon verification that the site has been permanently disabled. IAEA inspectors will be re-admitted, and the United States will begin the process of normalizing relations with North Korea.
  • 19 March: The sixth round of six-party talks commences in Beijing. 25 June: North Korea announces resolution of the banking dispute regarding US$25 million in DPRK assets in Macau's Banco Delta Asia.
  • 14 July: North Korea announces it is shutting down the Yongbyon reactor after receiving 6,200 tons in South Korean fuel oil aid.
  • 17 July: A 10-person team of IAEA inspectors confirms that North Korea has shutdown its Yongbyon reactor, a step IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said was "a good step in the right direction". On the same day, a second shipment of 7,500 tons of oil aid was dispatched from South Korea for the North Korea city of Nampo, part of the 50,000 tons North Korea is due to receive in exchange for shutting down the reactor, according to the February 13 agreement.
  • 11-13 September: Inspectors from the United States, China and Russia conduct a site visit at Yongbyon reactor to determine ways to permanently disable the reactor. U.S. delegation leader, Sung Kim, declared they "saw everything they had asked to see," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.


  • 2008
  • 25 February: CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour toured North Korea's nuclear plant. CNN was one of only two U.S. news organizations at the facility. 10 May: Sung Kim, the U.S. State Department's top Korea specialist, returned to South Korea by land across the heavily fortified border after collecting approximately 18,000 secret papers of Yongbyon nuclear reactor activities during a three-day visit to Pyongyang.
  • 26 June: North Korea hands over 60 pages of documents detailing its capabilities in nuclear power and nuclear weapons




Video of North Korea Destroys Reactor Tower (Note: no audio track)

North Korea and weapons of mass destruction

North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons, and the CIA asserts that it has a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons. North Korea was a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but withdrew in 2003, citing the failure of the United States to fulfill its end of the Agreed Framework, a 1994 agreement between the states to limit North Korea's nuclear ambitions, begin normalization of relations, and help North Korea supply some energy needs through nuclear reactors.

On October 9, 2006, the North Korean government issued an announcement that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test for the first time. Both the United States Geological Survey and Japanese seismological authorities detected an earthquake with a preliminary estimated magnitude of 4.2 on the Richter scale in North Korea, corroborating some aspects of the North Korean claims.

Background
Korea has been a divided country since 1945, when it was liberated from the defeated Japan after World War II. The Korean War was fought from June 25, 1950 until a ceasefire was signed on July 27, 1953. However, since North Korea and South Korea have still not officially made peace, strictly speaking, the war has yet to officially end.

Tensions between North and South have run high on numerous occasions since 1953. The deployment of the U.S. Army's Second Infantry Division on the Korean peninsula and the American military presence at the Korean Demilitarized Zone are publicly regarded by North Korea as an occupying army. In several areas, North Korean and American/South Korean forces operate in extreme proximity to the border, adding to tension. This tension led to the border clash in 1976, which has become known as the Axe Murder Incident.

According to newly declassified documents from the archives of former communist allies of North Korea, Pyongyang first began to pursue nuclear technology as early as 1956, though security concerns in the region and an apparent Soviet dismissal of these concerns in the early 1960s hastened the DPRK’s efforts to acquire the technology to produce nuclear weapons. In the wake of the student-led April 19 movement in 1960 that overthrew Rhee Syngman and the May 16, 1961 military coup d'état that brought General Park Jung-hee to power, North Korea sought an mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union and China.

Nuclear-armed states
US · Russia · UK · France
PR China · India · Israel
Pakistan · North Korea
(South Africa)

Yet, Soviet leaders reportedly did not even consider such a pact necessary, despite the military posture of the anti-communist Park Jung-hee regime, as long as the Soviets improved relations with the United States.

Perhaps the two most important factors in North Korea’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons and become militarily self-reliant were the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 and the prospect of a US-Japan-ROK alliance following the 1965 establishment of diplomatic relations between the ROK and Japan. Kim Il Sung reportedly did not trust that the Soviets would live up to the conditions of the mutual defense pact and guarantee North Korea’s security since they betrayed Castro by withdrawing nuclear missiles in an effort improve relations with the United States. Indeed, as a North Korean official explained to Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin in 1965, “the Korean leaders were distrustful of the CPSU and the Soviet government, they could not count on that the Soviet government would keep the obligations related to the defense of Korea it assumed in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, Kim Il said, and therefore they were compelled to keep an army of 700,000 and a police force of 200,000.” In explaining the cause of such mistrust, the official claimed that “the Soviet Union had betrayed Cuba at the time of the Caribbean crisis.” The prospect of a US-Japan-ROK alliance in 1965 further compelled the North Korean leaders to obtain nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Yet, as recently declassified Russian, Hungarian, and East German materials confirm, no communist governments were willing to share the technology with the North Koreans, out of fear that they would share the technology with China.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korean leaders recognized the need for a new security relationship with a major power since Pyongyang could not afford to maintain its military posture. North Korean leaders therefore sought to forge a new relationship with the United States, the only power strong enough to step into the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union. From the early 1990s, throughout the first nuclear crisis, North Korea sought a non-aggression pact with the United States.

The U.S. rejected North Korean calls for bilateral talks concerning a non-aggression pact, and stated that only six-party talks that also include the People's Republic of China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea are acceptable. The American stance was that North Korea has violated prior bilateral agreements, thus such forums lacked accountability. Conversely, North Korea refused to speak in the context of six-party talks, stating that it would only accept bilateral talks with the United States. This led to a diplomatic stalemate.

On November 19, 2006 North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper accused South Korea of building up arms in order to attack the country, claiming that "the South Korean military is openly clamoring that the development and introduction of new weapons are to target the North." Pyongyang accused South Korea of conspiring with the United States to attack the isolated and impoverished state, an accusation made frequently by the North and routinely denied by the U.S.

Chronology of events
North Korea Nuclear Program Chronology

Plutonium

5 MWe experimental reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research CenterConcern focuses around two reactors at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, both of them small power stations using Magnox techniques. The smaller (5MWe) was completed in 1986 and has since produced possibly 8,000 spent fuel elements. Construction of the 2 larger plants (50MWe in Yongbyon, and 200MWe in Taechong) commenced in 1984 but construction was frozen 1994 in accord with the Agreed Framework. It has also been suggested that small amounts of plutonium could have been produced in a Russian-supplied IRT-2000 heavy water–moderated research reactor completed in 1967, but there are no recorded safeguards violations with respect to this plant.

On March 12, 1993, North Korea said that it planned to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and refused to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites. By 1994, the United States believed that North Korea had enough reprocessed plutonium to produce about 10 bombs with the amount of plutonium increasing. Faced with diplomatic pressure and the threat of American military air strikes against the reactor, North Korea agreed to dismantle its plutonium program as part of the Agreed Framework in which South Korea and the United States would provide North Korea with light water reactors and fuel oil until those reactors could be completed. Because the light water reactors would require enriched uranium to be imported from outside North Korea, the amount of reactor fuel and waste could be more easily tracked, making it more difficult to divert nuclear waste to be reprocessed into plutonium. However, with bureaucratic red tape and political obstacles from the North Korea, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), established to advance the implementation of the Agreed Framework, had failed to build the promised light water reactors because the United States failed to uphold their end of the agreement by providing energy aid, and in late 2002, North Korea returned to using its old reactors.

Enriched uranium
With the abandonment of its plutonium program, U.S. officials claimed North Korea began an enriched uranium program. Pakistan, through Abdul Qadeer Khan, supplied key technology and information to North Korea in exchange for missile technology around 1997, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf acknowledged in 2005 that Khan had provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea. On May 30, 2008, ABC News reported that Khan, who previously confessed to his involvement with Iran and North Korea, now denies involvement with the spread of nuclear arms to those countries. He claimed in an interview with ABC News that the Pakistani government and President Pervez Musharraf forced him to be a "scapegoat" for the "national interest." He also denied ever traveling to Iran or Libya, and claimed that North Korea's nuclear program was well advanced before his visit.

This program was publicized in October 2002 when the United States asked North Korean officials about the program. Under the Agreed Framework North Korea explicitly agreed to freeze plutonium programs (specifically, its "graphite moderated reactors and related facilities." The agreement also committed North Korea to implement the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which both Koreas committed not to have enrichment or reprocessing facilities. The United States argued North Korea violated its commitment not to have enrichment facilities.

In December 2002, the United States persuaded the KEDO Board to suspend fuel oil shipments, which led to the end of the Agreed Framework. North Korea responded by announcing plans to reactivate a dormant nuclear fuel processing program and power plant north of Pyongyang. North Korea soon thereafter expelled United Nations inspectors and withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 2007 reports emanating from Washington suggested that the 2002 CIA reports that North Korea was developing uranium enrichment technology had overstated or misread the intelligence. U.S. officials were no longer making this a major issue in the six-party talks.

North Korea-United States relations
United States-North Korea relations
Even though U.S. President George W. Bush had named North Korea as part of an "Axis of Evil" following the September 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. officials stated that the United States was not planning any immediate military action.

According to John Feffer, co-director of the think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, "The primary problem is that the current U.S. administration fundamentally doesn’t want an agreement with North Korea. The Bush administration considers the 1994 Agreed Framework to have been a flawed agreement. It doesn’t want be saddled with a similar agreement, for if it did sign one, it would then be open to charges of "appeasing" Pyongyang. The Vice President has summed up the approach as: "We don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat evil."

American ire at North Korea is further inflamed by allegations of state-sponsored drug smuggling, money laundering, and wide scale counterfeiting.

Diplomatic efforts at resolving the North Korean situation are complicated by the different goals and interests of the nations of the region. While none of the parties desire a North Korea with nuclear weapons, Japan and South Korea are especially concerned about North Korean counter-strikes following possible military action against North Korea. The People's Republic of China and South Korea are also very worried about the economic and social consequences should this situation cause the North Korean government to collapse.

In early 2000 the Zurich-based company ABB was awarded the contract to provide the design and key components for two light-water nuclear reactors to North Korea.

Nuclear deterrence

Former South Korean Government sources, as well as some scholars and analysts, have argued that North Korea is using nuclear weapons primarily as a political tool to begin re-establishing normal relations with the U.S., Japan and South Korea, and to end the long-standing economic embargo against North Korea. They point out that the threat of nuclear weapons is the only thing that has brought the U.S., Japan and South Korea into serious negotiations. In a lecture in 1993, Bruce Cumings asserted that based on information gathered by the CIA, the activity around the Yongbyon facility may have been done expressly to draw the attention of U.S. satellites. He also pointed out that the CIA had not claimed North Korea had nuclear weapons, but that they had enough material to create such weapons should they choose to do so.

Further to this argument is the observation that many parties have a vested interest in the claim that North Korea has nuclear weapons. For North Korea, it has been a bargaining tool for opening diplomatic discussions. The nuclear development programme can be manipulated in exchange for foreign aid. Nuclear posturing has also been seen as a threat that could force the re-unification of the Korean peninsula. The Grand National Party, currently the ruling party in South Korea, have stated that they will not return to the Sunshine policy before North Korea gives up their nuclear weapons. South Korean newspapers have warned that North Korea's nuclear arsenal could destroy South Korea's conventional forces, and that the strategic military balance has irrevocably shifted in the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test. Finally, the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea has fed South Korea's perceived need for a larger standing army and defence force.

Some LDP politicians in Japan have openly expressed a desire to change Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits the use of force as a tool for resolving international disputes. This desire has become increasingly relevant given the ability of North Korea's Rodong-1 missile to strike Tokyo, and it has gained increasing support as a result. Some estimates have claimed that as many as 3 of the 200 Rodong-1 missiles currently deployed may be fitted with nuclear warheads.ISIS report 2007 . Further fears about North Korea's ability to generate weapons-grade fissile materials in its projected civilian nuclear reactors have led to the consideration of the threat posed by the entire Rodong-1 missile fleet being armed with nuclear warheads and targeted on the Japanese home islands. (The missiles are able to cover 90% of Japanese territory. Moreover, their accuracy is so poor that they are only valid delivery systems when targeted on very large military installations or cities.)

Because it is impossible to be certain of shooting down 100% of incoming ballistic missile warheads, it is preferable to ensure that the weapons cannot be manufactured in the first place. A surgical strike on the reactor generating nuclear weapons material, such as that carried out by the Israelis on the Iraqi reactor complex at Osirak (Operation Opera), may prevent later nuclear attacks, though at the risk of the action being seen as an act of war and retaliated against (albeit with conventional weaponry). Perhaps because of this, both the Clinton and Bush administrations rejected any pre-emptive surgical strike option. Other avenues leading to the same result have failed: during the 2006 negotiations, North Korea rejected the suggestion that it demolish its two larger reactors. Additionally, American interest in the region has waned. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration in the United States has made terrorism the central focus of its foreign policy. Although the U.S. maintains a force of 28,500 troops in South Korea (the second largest in East Asia ), it is likely that that deployment would be considerably decreased if the political situation changed significantly in Korea, something expected to negatively affect the U.S. sphere of influence in the region.

On March 17, 2007, North Korea told delegates at international nuclear talks that it is preparing to shut down its main nuclear facility. The agreement was reached following a series of six-party talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the U.S, begun in 2003. According to the agreement, a list of its nuclear programs will be submitted and the nuclear facility will be disabled in exchange for fuel aid and normalization talks with the U.S. and Japan. This had been delayed from April due to a dispute with the United States over Banco Delta Asia, but on July 14, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors confirm the shutdown of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

North Korea’s ability to fulfil its own energy needs has been deteriorating since the 1990s. Although North Korea's indigenous nuclear power-generating capacity is essentially insignificant, the two light-water moderated plants, if built, would be an important source of electricity in a nation with scant resources. Donald Rumsfeld demonstrated the severe lack of electricity for the entire nation in a photograph released in October 2006.

Possible ReactivationDuring 2008 tensions resurfaced between North Korea and the U.S. due to disagreements over the six-party talks disarmament process. On October 8, 2008, IAEA inspectors were forbidden by the North Korean government to conduct further inspections of the site. However two days later the U.S. removed North Korea from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the Yongbyon deactivation process is expected to resume.

Biological and chemical weaponsNorth Korea acceded to the Biological Weapons Convention in 1987, and the Geneva Protocol on January 4, 1989, but has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. The country is believed to possess a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons. It reportedly acquired the technology necessary to produce tabun and mustard gas as early as the 1950s, and now possesses a full arsenal of nerve agents and other advanced varieties, with the means to launch them in artillery shells. North Korea has expended considerable resources on equipping its army with chemical-protection equipment. South Korea, however, has not felt the need to take such measures.

Delivery systems
North Korean missile tests

North Korea's ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction to a hypothetical target is somewhat limited by its missile technology. As of 2005, North Korea's total range with its No Dong missiles is 1,300 km, enough to reach South Korea, Japan, and parts of Russia, and China, but not the mainland United States or Europe--although they could potentially reach US islands in the Pacific Ocean such as the Northern Mariana Islands and possibly even the state of Hawaii.

It is not known if this missile is actually capable of carrying the nuclear weapons North Korea has so far developed. The BM-25 is a North Korean designed long-range ballistic missile with range capabilities of up to 1,550 miles (roughly 2,500 km), and could carry a nuclear warhead. North Korea has also developed the Taepodong-1 missile, which has a range of 2,000 km, but it is not yet in full deployment. With the development of the Taepodong-2 missile, with an expected range of 5,000-6,000 km, North Korea could hypothetically deliver a warhead to almost all countries in Southeast Asia, as well as the western side of North America.

The Taepodong- 2 missile was tested on July 4, 2005, unsuccessfully. U.S. intelligence estimates that the weapon will not be operational for another 11 years. The Taepodong- 2 could theoretically hit the western United States and other US interests in the Western hemisphere. The current model of the Taepodong- 2 could not carry nuclear warheads to the United States. Former CIA director George Tenet has claimed that, with a light payload, Taepodong-2 could reach western parts of Continental United States, though with low accuracy.

There is also the possibility of nuclear terrorism, that is asymmetrical delivery of nuclear weapons (e.g. by smuggling by a civilian cargo ship/plane, or on a boat).

In 2007 North Korea's Taepodong-X Mobile Ballistic Missile was deployed. This missile's design is based on the USSR's submarine launched R-27, and the estimated Range is 3000-4000km. It is indicated that North Korea's is developing a mobile ICBM to prevent a successful first strike.

External Links and References





Monday, February 16, 2009

North Korea has denied in a statement that the nation's military is preparing to test-fire a long range ballistic missile. The country instead says that they are preparing to launch a space program.

"One will come to know later what will be launched in the DPRK. Space development is the independent right of the DPRK and the requirement of the developing reality," said the statement according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The statement also went on to accuse the United States and other nations of "viciously tricking [the country into putting] a brake on the wheel of not only the DPRK's building of military capability for self-defense but also scientific researches for peaceful purpose under the pretext of missile," added the statement.

Earlier reports from the U.S. and South Korean government had said that N. Korea was planning a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2. In 2006 the country test launched the same kind of missile, but military officials in the U.S. said the missile failed.

Previous reports say that N. Korea was trying to gain the attention of the new U.S. president Barack Obama, but the country denies those claims, saying, "the DPRK has no need to draw anyone's attention and does not want anybody to interfere or meddle in the issue of the Korean Peninsula."

From Wikinews.org


More history on the 1950-1953 Korean War!




 


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