North Korea's quest for a nuclear weapon can be traced back to the Korean War. During the 1950s U.S. military involvement in the Korean peninsula has its roots in the Korean War, in which the United States supported forces in the southern part of the peninsula against communist forces in the north, who were aided militarily by China and the Soviet Union. Kim Il-Sung interest in nuclear energy (as opposed to weapons) was driven primarily by a national economic and energy needs, as well as a desire for new technology. North Korea (officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) initially turned to Moscow for help, and Kim soon sent scientists to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna in the Soviet Union. In 1956 and 1959, the two countries signed formal agreements, and in 1960 joint construction of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center began.
In the early days, Pyongyang insisted that its aims were peaceful. It became party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1985, signed an agreement in 1991 with its rival South Korea in which both countries agreed not to produce or use nuclear weapons. But as the International Atomic Energy Agency pressed for access to the North's nuclear waste sites, the country warned that it would withdraw from the NPT. In early 1994, North Korea threatened to reprocess fuel rods from its nuclear reactor, a step that would give it enough weapons-grade plutonium for five or six nuclear weapons. The Clinton administration considered various responses, including a strike on the Yongbyon facility, but eventually chose to negotiate with Pyongyang. Amid the crisis, Kim Il-sung, who ruled for more than four decades, died. His son, Kim Jong-il, took over as leader. By October 1994, negotiations resulted in a deal known as the Agreed Framework. Under the Framework, North Korea agreed to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear facilities, in exchange for a move toward normalizing relations with the United States. North Korea would also receive shipments of fuel oil and assistance with constructing light water reactor power plants (which would have safeguards to ensure that fuel could not be diverted to weapons). The North Koreans agreed to the deal because there was a shift in the geopolitical situation in the late 1980s, early 1990s, said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and one of the negotiators of the Agreed Framework. First of all, they lost the Soviet Union as their main ally, and secondly, the Chinese were shifting towards establishing better relations with South Korea, Wit said. And so the North Koreans made a strategic decision that if they could secure better relations with the United States, they were willing to pay the price. And the price was, of course, their nuclear program.
North Korea shut down its nuclear reactor, and stalled construction of two others. In 1998, Korea test fired an intermediate-range missile the Taepo Dong-1, with an estimated range of 900 to 1,800 miles that failed. Nonetheless, negotiations kept on and North Korea agreed to a standstill on testing medium and long range missiles, only if talks with the U.S. continued. Madeleine Albright, then the secretary of state, visited North Korea's capital in 2000 and met Kim Jong-il. The North Koreans hoped Clinton would also visit before he left office, moving North Korea and the United States closer to normalizing relations. But time ran out with the end of the Clinton presidency. The Framework Collapses When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, his administration took a firmer approach to North Korea, postponing talks and expressing skepticism about whether Pyongyang was adhering to the Agreed Framework. North Korea warned Washington that such tough talk would force it to strongly react. Bush listed North Korea among one of three nations in an axis of evil in his 2002 State of the Union. Later that year, in October, the administration said that North Korea was secretly enriching uranium, a claim Pyongyang denied. A month later, the fuel oil shipments agreed to under President Clinton were suspended. By the end of 2002, North Korea ordered IAEA inspectors out of the country. The Agreed Framework had collapsed. By January 2003, the relationship hit a new low with North Korea's official withdrawal from the Nonproliferation Treaty. Four months later, U.S. officials said North Korea admitted to having at least one nuclear weapon. North Korea is isolated, impoverished, and a proclaimed enemy of South Korea but more important U.S. its ally.
North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests. One, it says, was a hydrogen bomb, small enough to be carried by a long-range missile. It also has a missile that could reach the U.S., which is Pyongyang's main Opponent. In response, the UN, the U.S. and the EU have imposed tough sanctions. In violation of UN Security Council resolution, North Korea continues to unconcealed nuclear enrichment and long range missile development efforts. Although, the scale of North Korea's uranium enrichment program remains uncertain, U.S. intelligence agenciesestimatethat it has enough plutonium to produce at least six nuclear weapons, and possibly up to 60. On September 2017, North Korea administered its sixth nuclear weapons test, its most powerfultestto date. As with previous tests in 2016, it again claimed to have developed a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb, which would represent further advancements in the nuclear program, and the ability to build more powerful, higher yield nuclear weapons. Since February 2017, North Korea has conductedsixteen missile testswith a total of twenty-three missiles, including a missile that can carry a nuclear warhead. Four of the missiles failed. In early July 2017, the country conducted its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Three weeks later, ittestedanother ICBM that experts believe could reach the continental United States. This just proves that North Korea is underestimated by the U.S. and is capable in carrying out a nuclear attack. Kim Jong-un's willingness to provoke the West with aggressive behavior has exacerbatedthe threat from North Korea's weapons proliferation. These instigations have included firingmissilesover northern Japanese islands, firing rocketsacross the South Korean border in August 2015. Kim has also undertaken efforts to consolidate his power bykilling high-ranking officials, including his family members.On February 2017, Kim's half-brother waskilledusing a banned nerve agent in an airport in Malaysia. North Korea denies responsibility for the attack. There are reportedly between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners apprehendedin North Korea.This consolidation of power may suggest that Kim, fearing fewer internal challenges to his control, is increasingly unconstrained domestically in making policy decisions.
In response to the increasing frequency of missile tests, the United States has pursued a variety of policy responses to the challenges posed by North Korea, including military cooperation with U.S., wide ranging sanctions, and nonproliferation 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. As I mentioned earlier in the essay, in 1994 North Korea's announced their intent to withdraw from the nuclear NPT, which requires non-nuclear weapon states to abandon 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. 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 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.
On January 2018, another diplomatic effort began when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the country's nuclear arsenal "complete" and offered to discusswith SeoulNorth Korea's participation in the South Korean Olympics. North Korea's delegation to the OlympicsincludedKim Jong Un's sister, who met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. That meeting led to a sustained inter-Korean dialogue, including a meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jaein-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 on March, Kim Jong Un conveyed his interest in meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. On January 2018, President Trump then proved willing to ignore the pre-talk conditions past presidents have imposed. Last year, a war of words between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un sparked fears that the escalating wordiness could spill over into military confrontation. This year, the two appeared to move towards what would be the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader. In March 2018, President Donald J. Trump accepted aninvitation, delivered by South Korean officials, to meet with Kim Jong-un. The two leaders met in Singapore on June 12, after which theyreleased a joint statement about denuclearization. At their Singapore summit, Kim reiterated his commitment to denuclearization.
But observers said the document the pair signed did not explain the details. It would be a propaganda win, as well as a geopolitical one. It allowed, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to say to his people, he persuaded the U.S. to finally end its imperialist stance against North Korea. It could bolster North Korea's case for the withdrawal of 28,000 American troops now stationed in South Korea. North Korea believes that the United States and its military presence on the Korean Peninsula is the most potent threat that it faces. Trump has made his openness to a peace declaration clear on several occasions. Threats, talks, sanctions and missile tests are not new developments in the U.S.-North Korea relationship. When Trump addressed the U.N. General Assembly in September, Trump said that if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its allies, it would have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Referring to Kim Jong-un as rocket man, Trump said the North Korean leader was on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. Kim Jong-un responded to Trump's speech by calling the U.S. president mentally deranged and warning that he would pay dearly for threatening to destroy North Korea. He also said Trump's comments have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.
North Korea has said it would not negotiate while under hostile threat. President Donald Trump may have been getting ahead of himself with that April 27 tweet. A peace declaration in the 65-year-old war now appears to be a central sticking point in the U.S.
North Korea nuclear negotiations. North Korea for decades has wanted to talk about a peace treaty, or a peace regime, to end the war officially, said Michael Fuchs, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Obama administration. So it seems very likely that the North Koreans are making this a top ask. The answer, for now, is no at least from Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons first. We believe that denuclearization has to take place before we get to other parts, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters this past Wednesday. Asked if that included a peace declaration, she said yes. On Tuesday, the White House said Trump had spoken withSouth Korean President Moon Jae, "including our ongoing efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un." Moon told the president he wassending a special envoy to Pyongyang on Wednesday to meetKim, and the two men agreed to meet later this month in New York during the U.N. General Assembly.
Also, NBC News reported that China has eased on economic sanctions on North Korea, reopening trade in a move that underminesthe Trump administration's efforts to apply "maximum pressure" to the Kim regime. That development could seriously complicate the U.S.-North Korea negotiations, giving Kim increased leverage to make his demands, including a peace declaration. The formal hostilities in the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armisticeafter three years of brutal conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 3 million soldiers and civilians, including more than 36,000 Americans. Although not a full-fledged peace treaty, the agreement signed by the U.S., North Koreaand China stopped the fighting and established the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean Peninsula. The Atlantic magazinereported last weekthat the South Korean government has circulated a draft declaration that would, among other things, formalize the end of hostile relations between the U.S. and North Korea. The South Korean embassy did not return a message seeking comment. But Pompeo and other U.S. officials are opposed to the move, even if it's largely symbolic. (A declaration would not carry the same legal or political weight as a formal treaty. Military hawks in both parties would likely view such a move yet another concession the first being Trump's decision to meet with Kim in June to a communist dictatorship that has failed to live up to past promises. After their high-profile June summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded agreement in which North Korea promised to work toward a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But the North Koreans have not taken any visible, concrete steps toward fulfilling that pledge. A United Nations watchdog organizationreported on Aug. 20 that Kim Jong Un'sgovernment has not stopped its nuclear weapons activities. Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert with the Center for the National Interest, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank, said giving North Korea a peace declaration is a smart diplomacy. It would establish America's good faith in the negotiations and put the onus on North Korea to respond with real denuclearization. President Trump has held a legitimizing summit with Kim Jong Un, he wrote ina July 26Fox News opinion piece.Now it's time to give a peace treaty a chance. The effort to officially end the Korean War may go nowhere or it could be an important step on the road to denuclearization.
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