September 6, 2017

A History of Talking with North Korea


  • North Korea has been clear that its goal is to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
  • It has relentlessly pursued this goal whether negotiations over its nuclear program were ongoing or not.
  • It has conducted six nuclear weapons tests in total, beginning in 2006.
  • North Korea conducted 26 ballistic missile flight tests in 2016, according to CRS, and has conducted 18 this year thus far. This includes the two tests in July of ICBM technology directed at threatening the United States.  

The following provides an overview and chronology of negotiations related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs:

  • January 20, 1992: North and South Korea sign a Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which the parties promise not to test or produce nuclear weapons and not to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.”

  • October 1994: The Clinton administration completes the Agreed Framework with North Korea providing for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and extensive energy assistance in return. President Clinton says, “North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program.”

  • February 2000: President Clinton waives a statutory requirement to certify “North Korea is not seeking to develop or acquire the capability to enrich uranium, or any additional capability to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.”

  • June 2000: President Clinton waives a statutory requirement to certify “North Korea has terminated its nuclear weapons program.”

  • September 2005: A Joint Statement is issued from the six-party talks (China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and United States) in which North Korea committed “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” in exchange for energy and economic cooperation and steps toward normalization.

  • July 4, 2006: North Korea tests seven missiles, including one long-range missile.

  • October 2006: North Korea tests a nuclear weapon.

  • February 2007: An Initial Actions Plan is completed in an effort to move forward the September 2005 Joint Statement. North Korea agrees to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility within 60 days “and invite back IAEA personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verifications,” in return for an initial shipment of emergency energy assistance. North Korea never fulfills this promise.

  • September 2007: Israel destroys a building in Syria the IAEA concludes “was very likely a nuclear reactor” and was “comparable” to the nuclear reactors at Yongbyon in North Korea.

  • October 2007: North Korea agrees “to provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs – including clarification regarding the uranium issue – by the end of the year.” This agreement, too, is never implemented.

  • April 2009: North Korea tests a long-range missile directed at hitting the United States.

  • Five days later, President Obama submits his fiscal year 2009 supplemental funding request, which includes $95 million “to provide Heavy Fuel Oil or equivalent to North Korea to support the goals of the Six Party Talks.”

  • May 2009: North Korea announces it conducted a nuclear weapon test.

  • July 4, 2009: North Korea conducts another series of missile tests.

  • March 2010: North Korea sinks the South Korean ship Cheonan, murdering 46 sailors aboard. 

  • February 29, 2012: the State Department announces North Korea had agreed “to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches” in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of food aid.

  • April 13, 2012: North Korea attempts another test of long-range missile technology.

north korean progress to hitting u.s. with a nuclear weapon

  • North Korea has now conducted six nuclear weapons tests: 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016 (two), and September 2017.

  • CRS assesses North Korea conducted 26 ballistic missile flight tests in 2016.

  • CRS assesses North Korea has thus far conducted 18 ballistic missile flight tests in 2017, including two tests in July of ICBM technology directed at threatening the United States.

Issue Tag: National Security