Monday, May 26, 2008

The six-year crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions has been a roller coaster of stalled negotiations and then sudden progress, resulting in major shifts in policy by the Bush administration.


January: In his State of the Union address, President Bush declares that North Korea, Iraq and Iran are part of an "axis of evil." Bush came into office skeptical of a 1994 agreement freezing the operation of a North Korean nuclear reactor producing weapons-grade plutonium, in exchange for Western supplies of fuel oil and promises of two light-water reactors.

October: U.S. officials confront North Korea with accusations of a clandestine uranium-enrichment program, which U.S. intelligence predicts will be operational by 2005.

December: The 1994 deal breaks down after the United States suspends deliveries of fuel oil and North Korea restarts the reactor at Yongbyon, allowing it to obtain weapons-grade plutonium. Talks to end the crisis made little progress in 2003 and 2004.


April: Christopher R. Hill is sworn in as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

September: Six nations reach a preliminary accord under which North Korea would "abandon" its nuclear weapons. U.S. targets a bank in Macau suspected of aiding North Korea with money laundering, leading Pyongyang to suspend talks.


October: North Korea conducts a nuclear test.


February: Six nations reach an agreement implementing the September 2005 accord. The United States agrees to end its campaign against the Macau bank.

June: The United States arranges for the return of $23 million in North Korean funds that had been frozen in Macau. Days later, Hill flew into Pyongyang for high-level talks.

September: Israel destroys a nuclear reactor in Syria said to have been built with North Korean assistance.

October: In a six-nation agreement, North Korea agrees to disable its nuclear facilities and disclose its nuclear programs. The United States agrees to lift two key sanctions once North Korea completes those tasks.


April: United States agrees to separate the required disclosure into two parts, with North Korea agreeing to disclose records on plutonium but only "acknowledge" U.S. concerns and evidence on uranium enrichment and proliferation to Syria.

-- Glenn Kessler

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