North Korea


Human Rights Watch has called North Koreans “some of the world’s most brutalized people” due to restrictions against their political and economic freedoms. North Korea has strained international relationships with many countries, including South Korea, with whom many attempts at reunion of the states have been made, all resulting in failure. Currently, North Korea is accelerating its nuclear weapons program in response to South Korea’s unveiling of their THAAD defense system, which North Korea opposes. North Korea is at odds with not only South Korea over its nuclear program, but also Japan and the United States. The United Nations has also imposed sanctions against North Korea due to its refusal to halt its nuclear development.


Where: North Korea

Population: 25.4 million

Prisoners: 200,000 

Current nuclear capability: Believed to be able to miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit on ICBM missiles

Intercontinental ballistic missile range: Claim the ability to hit anywhere in the USA.

Key actors

has rescinded peaceful talks with South Korea and is also antagonistic with the United States and Japan due to their nuclear program and their refusal to denuclearize

borders North Korea, who they split with in 1945 and have since been adversaries. South Korea is allied with the U.S.A, who assist in military training and drills.

supports South Korea and is attempting to force North Korea into de-nuclearization

imposed increased sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to persuade its de-nuclearization as its missile tests increased in 2017

Timeline of the crisis

End of WWII, Korean territory taken from Japan by Allied forces

The Korean Workers’ Party, which represented North Korea’s Communist population inaugurated.

Free elections held in the US-occupied south of Korea results in the creation of the Republic of Korea; North Korea becomes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea founded by Kim Il-Sung

South Korea announces independence which triggered North Korean invasion and the Korean War. South Korea receives support from China and the Soviet Union to invade North Korea; with the aim of gaining control of the peninsula.

Armistice is signed which ends the Korean War, however Korea remains significantly divided.

Rapid industrial growth takes place within Korea.

North Korea ratifies the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is a multilateral treaty that bans the signatory from producing nuclear weapons. This treaty also promotes peace and cooperation surrounding nuclear energy-security.

North and South Korea become members of the United Nations.

The North and South Korean Governments agree to ending tests, manufacturing, storing, deploying or using nuclear weaponry.

This also banned nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment services. The treaty clearly stated nuclear energy can only be utilised for peaceful means.

North Korea Threatens to withdraw from the ‘Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’ (NPT). However, North Korea suspends its withdrawal after meetings with American diplomats in New York.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands that Pyongyang agrees to comply with IAEA precautions, including reviews at seven different nuclear sites by inspectors.  

President Jimmy Carter becomes the first former U.S. president to visit North Korea, where he meets with Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. Carter’s trip paves the way for a bilateral deal between the United States and North Korea.

Kim Jong-Il takes power after the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung.

The first inspections of the nuclear test sites take place in March.

The U.S. and North Korea sign the Agreed Framework that commits North Korea to freezing its illegal plutonium weapons program and stopping the construction on nuclear reactors in Geneva. In exchange, the U.S. agrees to provide sanctions relief, aid, oil, and two light-water reactors for civilian use. Earlier that year U.S. intelligence calculated that North Korea had built approximately one or two nuclear weapons.

The United States proclaims it will remove approximately one hundred nuclear weapons from South Korea. This was part of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. This agreement between President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, was labeled the START treaty and restricted the deployment of offensive nuclear weapons overseas.

North Korean General Jo Myong-rok meets with U.S. President Clinton in Washington. Following this, the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright travels to North Korea to deliberate the country’s ballistic missile program and missile technology exports. This led to talks in November, but Clinton’s rule ended without further nuclear or missile deals taking place.

President Bush takes pursues a harder line toward Pyongyang, depicting North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, as part of an “axis of evil” and imposing new sanctions.

Bush states in a memorandum that the U.S. will not confirm North Korea’s compliance with the 1994 Agreed Framework. This was because of a rocket test and the exporting of missile-related products to Iran.

North Korea withdraws from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty

North Korea announces that they have attained nuclear weapons.

North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test.

North Korea pledges to stopping operations at its Yongbyon nuclear facilities in exchange for fifty thousand tons of oil. The agreement was created as part of an action plan which was agreed to by the Six Party members in the September 2005 declaration.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak takes office and introduces hard-line strategy of relations with North Korea over the issue of nuclear demilitarization

Pyongyang announces its fifteen nuclear sites to Beijing, the chair of the Six Party Talks, affirming that it had thirty kilograms of plutonium and used two kilograms in its 2006 nuclear test. Due to this, Bush withdraws some of its trade restrictions with North Korea, announces plans to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and renounces some sanctions.

In October, the U.S. State Department announces a preliminary arrangement with North Korea on verifications. However, by December, discussions break down because of differences of opinions for verification measures.

President Barack Obama becomes President and is prepared to revive the Six Party Talks, but North Korea launches a rocket. It also ejects international monitors from its nuclear facilities in April and the following month tests a second nuclear device, which carries a yield of two to eight kilotons. In December, the U.S. hold their first bilateral consultation with North Korean representatives.

North Korea ends peace agreements with South Korea

North Korea deploys additional ballistic missiles

Pyongyang reveals its new centrifuge for uranium enrichment, which was built in secret and its light-water reactor under construction. This showed that North Korea was still committed to advancing its weapons program.

North Korea attacks Yeonpyeong Island, killing 4 South Koreans and injuring an additional 19

Kim Jong-Un takes power following his father’s state funeral

Following a meeting between the U.S. and North Korea in Beijing, North Korea commits to suspend its uranium enrichment actions in Yongbyon, invite IAEA monitors, and carry out a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing. In exchange for its cooperation, the U.S. agreed to provide tons of food aid. However, the deal falls apart because North Korea launched a rocket and displayed intercontinental ballistic missiles during a military parade.

South Korea asks the United States Pentagon for information concerning the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in the interests of defense against North Korean nuclear missiles

President Donald J. Trump is inaugurated in January 2017 and shifts course in U.S. policy toward North Korea.

THAAD system fully operational in South Korea

In September, Pyongyang conducts its sixth nuclear test, which it claims is a hydrogen bomb. This created international panic and Trump redesignates North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism in November.

North Korean foreign minister accuses the United States of declaring war against North Korea (false), and claims it has the right to shoot down United States bombers

North Korea accuses the United States of threatening them with “nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers”

Donald Trump announces the “largest ever” sanctions package against North Korea. The latter nevertheless says that it is willing to start direct talks with America.

A meeting takes place between a high-ranking South Korean delegation and Kim Jong-un during a historic visit by the South Koreans to Pyongyang

North Korea, it is announced, is willing to discuss denuclearization if it can begin direct talks with the U.S. Kim Jong-un is also said to be scheduled to meet his South Korean counterpart in April, in the first summit of its kind in more than a decade

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un makes an unannounced visit to Beijing, China, in what is his first foreign visit since taking power in 2011.

Kim Jong-un makes a historic visit to South Korea, where he meets
South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks at the border crossing between both countries. During that meeting they agree to end hostile actions and work towards reducing nuclear arms on the peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says that North Korea’s nuclear test site, Punggye-ri will be closed. Foreign experts from South Korea and the US will be invited to watch the closure.

South Korea starts taking down the loudspeakers along its border with North Korea. The speakers had for years been used to blast propaganda across their mutual border.

North Korea blows up one of its nuclear facilities in a show of good faith ahead of the summit with the President of the United States.

Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump meet in Singapore in a historic moment, as it is the first time a North Korean leader has met the U.S. President. An agreement was signed to encourage positive relations between the U.S. and North Korea, stating North Korea’s desire for peace on the Korean peninsula and their commitment to steps toward denuclearization. 

North Korea reportedly returns the remains of 200 missing U.S. soldiers from the Korean War.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Kim Yong Chol in Pyongyang to address progress since the June 12th summit. While Pompeo believed the talks went well, the North Korean Foreign Ministry characterized them as “unilateral and robber like”

A secret North Korean uranium enrichment site, named Kangston by US intelligence is discovered

North and South Korea open their first joint liaison office in Kaesong

Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in meet in Pyongyang for their third summit

During the summit the two leaders announce the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, agreeing to expand the cessation of military hostilities

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang to confirm the dismantling of nuclear test sites and discuss plans for a second summit between US President Trump and Kim Jong Un

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