Editor’s note: This story pairs with “U.S., North Korea talk tough, military options loom”
President Donald Trump issued an emphatic warning to North Korea during his 13-day November trip to Asia: “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us.” However, the President also waxed optimistic as he encouraged North Korea to come to the table and “make a deal.”
These two styles of rhetoric, one strong and the other focused on dealmaking, are not unique to Trump. They have embodied the dual approaches that many past presidents have used to negotiate with the DPRK in the past.
The results have been mixed as the United States and North Korea have had a trying relationship over the past 70 years:
1945 – Following World War II, the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula ends as the Soviet Union occupies the northern part of Korea while the United States occupies the south.
1946 – The Korean Workers’ Party is formed. Essentially a Communist party, the Workers’ Party is headed by a Soviet-backed leadership.
1948 – The northern part of Korea declares itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and installs Kim Il-sung as its leader.
1950 – The southern portion of Korea declares independence from the DPRK leading to North Korean invasion and the Korean War.
1953 – An armistice ends the Korean War with the border between the two Koreas located near the 38th parallel.
1968 – The DPRK captures the USS Pueblo, claiming that the U.S. naval intelligence ship was intruding in North Korean waters. The United States claims the Pueblo was in international waters at the time of its capture. North Korea continues to possess the Pueblo to this day.
1985 – North Korea ratifies the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This agreement, which is adhered to by 190 states, aims to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons.
1986 – A nuclear reactor for research purposes in Yongbyon, North Korea becomes operational.
1991 – Both North Korea and South Korea join the United Nations.
1994 July – Kim Il-sung, the supreme leader of the DPRK, dies. Kim Jong-il replaces his father as leader following a period of mourning.
1994 October – The DPRK and the United States sign an Agreed Framework which stipulates that North Korea will commit to halting its nuclear program in exchange for heavy fuel oil and two light-water nuclear reactors. This agreement broke down in 2003.
1996 – Famine and intense flooding strike North Korea. Three million North Koreans are estimated to have died from subsequent starvation.
1996 April – North Korea announces that it will no longer abide by the armistice and sends thousands of troops into the demilitarized zone. This is just one of many border disputes that will take place over the years.
2002 January – President George W. Bush condemns North Korea as a member of an “axis of evil” for continuing to build “weapons of mass destruction” alongside Iraq and Iran.
2002 October – The United States, alongside South Korea and Japan, halts North Korean oil shipments following reports that North Korea was in development of a uranium-based nuclear program.
2002 December – The DPRK announces that it will reactivate its facilities at Yongbyon. North Korea removes IAEA surveillance devices from the facility and expels the UN inspection team.
2003 January – North Korea officially withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Thus begins a diplomatic effort known as the Six-Party Talks which involved China, the United States, North and South Korea, Japan and Russia. The U.S. goal is to accomplish the “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of North Korean nuclear programs.
2003 October – In response to the “hostile policy” of the United States, North Korea announces that it has finished the reprocessing of some 8000 nuclear fuel rods. Experts calculate that this would allow to North to construct 5-6 nuclear bombs within 6 months.
2005 February – The North Korean foreign ministry declares that the DPRK has need of nuclear weapons for self-defense.
2006 July – North Korea test fires five short-range missiles and one long-range missile. Despite speculation that the the long-range Taepodon-2 missile had the capability to strike the United States, the missile crashes shortly after take-off.
2007 July – North Korea agrees to shut down its Yongbyon facility after receiving 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil in an aid package.
2007 August – North Korea is devastated by a series of floods. The country makes a rare appeal for international aid.
2008 March – Lee Myung-bak is sworn in as the president of South Korea and vows to take a harder stance when it comes to negotiations with the North.
2008 August – North Korean leader Kim Jong-il suffers a stroke.
2008 October – North Korea is removed from the state sponsors of terror list by the Bush administration in exchange for access to the Yongbyon facility.
2009 August – Former president Bill Clinton negotiates the release of two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea. The journalists had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor following allegations that they had illegally crossed the border.
2010 March – A North Korean torpedo sinks the South Korean warship Cheonan killing 46 sailors. The DPRK denies the allegations and threatens war if sanctions are imposed.
2011 December – Kim Jong-il dies. He is replaced by his son Kim Jong-un.
2012 October – North Korea claims to have missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland in response to a missile deal struck two days before by the United States and South Korea.
2013 December – Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Chang Song-thaek, is labeled a “traitor for all ages” and executed for crimes against the state.
2014 December – The United States government accuses the North of cyber-attacks on Sony Pictures because of the studio’s new movie The Interview.
2016 January – The North Korea government announces the successful detonation of its first hydrogen bomb. The international community remains skeptical of the legitimacy of the claim.
2017 January – Kim Jong-un issues a New Year’s statement that claims the DPRK is in the final stages of developing long-range guided missiles that would be capable of housing nuclear warheads.
2017 July – North Korea fires a long-range missile that may have landed within 230 miles of the Japanese coast. Experts speculate that a similar missile would have the ability to strike Japan.
2017 August – Tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to escalate as North Korea threatens that its intermediate-range missiles have the capability of striking Guam.