North Korea Showdown

May 19, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 19
Can a military confrontation be averted?
By David Hosansky


1940s–1950sKorean Peninsula is divided into North and South, followed by war and a tense standoff.
1945Korea splits as World War II ends, with the Soviet-backed communist regime ruling the North and a U.S.-backed regime controlling the South in Cold War maneuvering.
1948As Soviet and U.S. troops begin to withdraw, longtime communist guerrilla fighter Kim Il Sung takes control of the North.
1950North Korean troops invade the South; U.S. and U.N. troops rapidly enter the war to help the South, and then China enters on the side of the North.
1953After massive loss of life, armistice divides peninsula at 38th Parallel.
1960s–1980sAided by China and Russia, North undergoes industrial growth and escalates provocations against the South.
1965North's nuclear weapons program begins as the Soviets help build its first nuclear reactor, at Yongbyon.
1968North seizes U.S. spy ship U.S.S. Pueblo, releases crew a year later.
1983Amid mounting North Korean provocations, Pyongyang tries unsuccessfully to assassinate South Korean president.
1984North test-fires first SCUD missile.
1985North agrees to 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
1990sNorth faces famine and a transfer of political leadership from Kim Il Sung to his son but continues military buildup.
1991North and South begin ministerial talks in Pyongyang…. U.S. withdraws nuclear weapons from South.
1994Kim Jong Il takes control after the death of his father, Kim Il Sung…. U.S. and North Korea sign Agreed Framework, with Pyongyang promising to freeze nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid.
1995Three-year famine leaves up to 2.5 million dead.
1998North test-fires long-range Taepodong-1 missile over Japan.
2000s–PresentNorth develops increasingly powerful nuclear arsenal.
2002President George W. Bush calls North Korea part of an “axis of evil.” … U.S. accuses North of starting uranium-enrichment program.
2003North withdraws from Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…. Six-party talks begin among U.S., North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
2006North conducts its first underground nuclear bomb test; U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions.
2007North agrees to disable its nuclear facilities for economic aid.
2009North cuts diplomatic ties with South, carries out second underground nuclear test.
2010North shells South Korean island of Yeonpyeong months after it reportedly sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.
2011Kim Jong Un succeeds his father, Kim Jong Il, as North Korea's leader.
2014U.N. report details massive North Korean human rights violations.
2016North Korea tests 10-kiloton nuclear bomb, its most powerful to date.
2017Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother is killed with a chemical agent in Malaysia; suspicion quickly turns to Pyongyang (Feb. 13)…. North Korea test-fires four missiles into the Sea of Japan, penetrating Japan's 200-mile economic exclusion zone (March 6)…. President Trump warns of the potential for “major, major conflict” with North Korea; (April 28). Moon Jae-in wins South Korean presidency, pledges to reach out to North in potential split with Washington.

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Document APA Citation — See Alternate Citation Style
Hosansky, D. (2017, May 19). North Korea showdown. CQ researcher, 27, 433-456. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2017051904
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ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 19, 2017  North Korea Showdown
Jul. 05, 2011  North Korean Menace
Apr. 11, 2003  North Korean Crisis
May 19, 2000  Future of Korea
Aug. 12, 1977  Relations with South Korea
Apr. 24, 1968  Divided Korea
Jan. 27, 1960  Korea: Problem Protectorate
Aug. 24, 1951  Rehabilitation of Korea
Nov. 01, 1945  Freedom for Korea
Alliances and Security Agreements
Arms Control and Disarmament
Conflicts in Asia
Diplomacy and Diplomats
Export Sanctions and Restrictions
Party Politics
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
U.S. at War: Korea
War and Conflict
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