The Back Story on North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as it turns out is a bit of a puzzle which has been going on for quite some time. American presidents have been dealing toward stopping the North Korean military nuclear program without any success since the early 1962 with President John F. Kennedy. Never has an American President conducted face-to-face talks with the DPRK leader to negotiate a Total, Verifiable and Irreversible De-Nuclearization of North Korea, until the historical Singapore Summit between President Donald J. Trump and Leader Kim Jong Un on June 12, 2018.
Eight countries have successfully detonated nuclear weapons. Five countries are considered Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons: USA, Russia, UK, France and China.
Since the NPT went into force in 1970, 3 countries were not parties to the treaty have conducted nuclear tests: India, Pakistan and North Korea (withdrew from the NPT in 2003).
Israel is generally understood to have nuclear weapons, but does not acknowledge it while maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity. It is estimated to possess between 75 and 400 nuclear warheads.
Countries that formerly possessed nuclear weapons: South Africa (developed, then disassembled before joining NPT and former Soviet republics: Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.
In 1963 the Soviet Union refused to help North Korea in developing nuclear weapons, as did the Chinese a bit later. Soviet engineers took part in construction of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in North Korea and began conducting an IRT-2000 research reactor in1963, it became operational in1965, then upgraded to 8 MW in 1974. In 1979 North Korea began to build in Yongbyon a second research reactor, an ore processing plant and a fuel rod fabrication plant.
As the North Korean nuclear weapons program dates back to the 1980s, focusing on practical uses of nuclear energy and completion of a nuclear weapons development system, North Korea began to operate facilities for uranium fabrication and conversion and conducted high-explosive detonation tests.
In 1985 North Korea ratified the NPT but did not include the required safeguards agreement with the IAEA until 1992. In 1993 the IAEA concluded the North Korean declaration as incomplete, which they reported to the UN Security Council.
In 1994 the U.S. government signed an agreement to facilitate the supply of two light water reactors to North Korea in exchange for North Korean disarmament. The Agreed Framework fell apart in 2002 and Pakistan admitted that North Korea gained access to Pakistan’s nuclear technology in the late 1990s.
The U.S. accused North Korea of non-compliance and halted oil shipments. In 2003 North Korea withdrew from the NPT. In 2005 North Korea vowed to close the nuclear program.
On October 9, 2006 North Korea announced it had successfully conducted its first nuclear test with an underground explosion. On January 6, 2017 North Korea confirmed it had nuclear weapons.
On March 17, 2007 North Korea announced it was preparing to shut down its main nuclear facility. This was an agreement with a series of six-party talks: North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the USA which had begun in 2003. North Korea agreed to disable the nuclear facility in exchange for fuel aid and normalize talks with the USA and Japan. Aid was delayed from April to July, when it was confirmed the shutdown of the nuclear facility. This agreement fell apart in 2009 when North Korea launched a satellite.
In April 2009 North Korea became a full-fledged nuclear power and on May 25, 2009 a second nuclear test was conducted.
In February 2012 North Korea announced it would suspend uranium enrichment at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center and not conduct further tests of nuclear weapons while productive negotiations with the USA continued. This would include a moratorium on long-range missiles tests, and allowing IAEA inspectors to monitor operations. The USA prepared to ship important but limited humanitarian food aid to North Korea. In April 2012 North Korea conducted a long-range missile test and the food aid did not proceed.
In January 6, 2016 North Korea claimed to test a hydrogen bomb, which was a simulated 10 KT boosted nuclear device instead. On February 7, 2016 North Korea claimed to have put a satellite into orbit. A fifth nuclear test occurred on September 9, 2016 with an estimated 25 KT yield.
In 2017 North Korea test-launched two ICBMs and announced a further test of a hydrogen bomb.
What is clear is that North Korea has repeatedly sought outside help and once that has been achieved they have backed out of each peace agreement.
One aspect of this process that has changed was on June 12, 2018 in Singapore when Kim Jong Un met with President Donald Trump and his advisors who demanded a total dismantling, verification and removal of ALL nuclear weapons from North Korea, under threat of increased sanctions or military action.
What remains to be seen is whether this message has been effectively transmitted to the current regime in such a way that they live up to the agreement. The very lives of the people of North Korea, the entire Korean peninsula and the world hang in the balance.
There are those here in the USA and abroad that want North Korea to go back on their word or in some way violate the agreement so they can say, “Trump couldn’t make the deal stick.” I venture to say that as he has said in the past if he wasn’t sure about making the deal, he would have just walked away. – I am the Real Truckmaster!