On October 9, 2006, the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea claimed to have conducted a successful nuclear test. A year a and a half later, in June 2008, President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Here, a timeline of North Korea's nuclear program from the 1950s through 2008.
1962: North Korea begins to develop nuclear weapons program, staffing an atomic energy research complex with Soviet trained experts.
1977: North Korea consents to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requests to inspect its nuclear reactor.
1980s: North Korea seeks to complete a nuclear weapon development system, and opens facilities to fabricate and convert uranium. New construction begins on a nuclear reactor and on nuclear reprocessing facilities.
1985: The United States claims to have evidence that a secret nuclear reactor is being constructed near Yongbyon, a small town north of the capital Pyongyang. In the same year, North Korea submits to international pressure and signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, it does not fulfill its obligation, as an NPT signatory, to also sign a "safeguards agreement" with the IAEA.
September, 1990: North and South Korea open the first of eight high level talks. The talks result in an Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges and Cooperation (the "basic agreement") and a Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (the "joint declaration"). One of the requirements of the Joint Declaration is a bilateral nuclear inspection regime, called the Joint Nuclear Control Commission (JNCC)
January 30, 1992: North Korea signs the nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA, one of its obligations as an NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) signatory. The agreement permits IAEA inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities to begin in June, 1992.
February 19, 1992: The Joint Declaration comes into effect. It includes comprehensive language prohibiting both North and South Korea from producing, manufacturing, acquiring or possessing nuclear weapons or facilities.
January, 1993: North Korea refuses to permit IAEA access to two suspected nuclear waste sites.
May 11, 1993: The UN Security Council passes a joint resolution recommending that North Korea cooperate with the IAEA, and encouraging UN member states to support resolution of the issue.
June, 1993: Joint U.S. – North Korea talks result in a statement of principles for further dialogue. In a second round of talks, the parties develop guidelines for resolution. Talks continue through the summer of 1994, and conclude with an Agreed Framework between the two countries.
October 21, 1994: The Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is signed in Geneva. The text of the Agreed Framework provides that:
- Both sides will cooperate to replace the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities with light-water reactor (LWR) power plants;
- The two sides will move toward full normalization of political and economic relations;
- Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula;
- Both sides will work together to strengthen the international nuclear non proliferation regime.
January 10, 2003: North Korea declares its intention to withdraw from the NPT, declaring that:
As it has become clear once again that the U.S. persistently seeks to stifle the DPRK at any cost and the IAEA is used as a tool for executing the US hostile policy toward the DPRK, we can no longer remain bound to the NPT, allowing the country's security and the dignity of our nation to be infringed upon.
April 24, 2003: North Korean officials declare that they have nuclear weapons, while at Beijing talks with the U.S. and China.
August 27, 2003: Six party talks between North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russian begin. A second and third round of talks are held in early 2004.
February 10, 2005: North Korea declares its possession of nuclear weapons and announces a boycott of six-party talks.
February, 2005: Defense Intelligence Analysts report that North Korea may have produced from 12 – 15 nuclear weapons.
July 5, 2006: North Korea fires seven missiles into the Sea of Japan.
July 15, 2006: The UN Security Council imposes sanctions on North Korea in response to the missile tests earlier in the month.
September, 26, 2006: North Korea says it will no longer engage in nuclear talks.
October 6, 2006: The UN Security Council urges North Korea to abandon its stated plans to test a nuclear weapon, and to resume six-party talks.
October 9, 2006: North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear weapon is internationally condemned.
February, 2007: North Korea agrees to give up nuclear weapons. Reports throughout the year indicate that disabling the nuclear reactor at Pyongyang proceeds apace.
December 31, 2007: North Korea does not meet a deadline to disclose its nuclear activities, despite President Bush's urging.
April 24, 2008: The U.S. accuses North Korea of assistance developing a Syrian nuclear reactor.
May 8, 2008 North Korea supplies the U.S. with substantial information about its reactor at Yongbyon.
June 26, 2008: President Bush announces he will take North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, following North Korea's declarations of nuclear activities related to plutonium. Some are concerned that uranium enrichment has not been addressed.
October 12, 2008The U.S. agrees to take North Korea off the state sponsors list, and both countries agree--in admittedly vague language--that North Korea will permit inspections beyond its Yongbyon facility. That facility was the only one that North Korea wanted inspectors.
October 13, 2008North Korea permits IAEA inspectors to re-enter facilities.