North Korea Nuclear/Missile Chronology - 1962-2000

The Risk Report
Volume 6 Number 6 (November-December 2000)

1962: North Korea sets up an atomic energy research center with Soviet help.

1964: Chinese help prospect for uranium.

1967: North Korea starts up small Soviet-supplied reactor.

1969-70: Soviet Union sends FROG-5 and FROG-7A missiles to North Korea.

1974: North Korea joins IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

1975: North Korea produces first plutonium -- a few grams.

1976: In return for military aid during the 1973 Middle East war, Egypt sends Soviet Scud-B missiles to North Korea.

1977: North Korea agrees to international inspection of Soviet-supplied equipment.

1977: Kang Song-San, a high party official, visits China's Lop Nur nuclear test site.

1979: Starts to build 30-megawatt thermal reactor that can produce enough plutonium for one bomb a year.

1983: A terrorist bomb linked to North Korea kills four South Korean cabinet members in Rangoon.

1984: North Korea successfully tests its first reverse-engineered Scud-B missile.

1984: An Iranian businessman and a Soviet emigre are indicted in New York for conspiring to smuggle U.S. missile guidance components to North Korea.

1985: Iran agrees to finance the development of North Korean Scud missiles in exchange for Scud-B technology and an option to buy the missiles when they become available.

1985: Signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), promising not to produce a bomb and to open all nuclear sites to inspection. In return, Soviets promise North Korea several large power reactors.

1985: Starts to build a 200-Mwt. reactor that can produce enough plutonium for 7 to 10 bombs a year.

1985: Also starts to build large plant to process plutonium into weapon-ready form.

1986: Begins to produce plutonium in 30-Mwt. reactor.

1987: Misses the first 18-month deadline for the beginning of international inspections. Inspectors grant 18-month extension.

1987: North Korean agents bomb a South Korean airliner with 115 passengers to retaliate for being barred from Seoul Olympics.

1987: Iran and North Korea sign a $500 million arms deal that includes the purchase of 90 to 100 Scud-Bs by Tehran.

1987-88: North Korea delivers approximately 100 Scud-B missiles to Iran.

1988: U.S. puts North Korea on its list of nations supporting terrorism.

1988: Misses second deadline for beginning international inspections, and demands "legal assurances" that U.S. won't threaten it with nuclear weapons.

1989: Continues to refuse nuclear inspections.

1989: Secretly unloads, according to CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), enough plutonium-bearing fuel to make one or two nuclear bombs.

1989: Begins to process plutonium into nuclear-ready form.

1989: Starts to build 800-Mwt. reactor that can produce plutonium for 30 to 40 bombs a year.

1989: Proposes talks with South Korea on denuclearizing the peninsula.

1989: Two Japanese companies reportedly ship spectrum analyzers to North Korea, which can be used to improve missile accuracy.

1990: Threatens to drop out of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty unless U.S. removes all nuclear weapons from the peninsula.

1990: U.S. fines German firm Degussa for illegally supplying U.S.-origin reactor material to North Korea.

1990: Breaks off talks with inspectors. Continues to refuse inspection.

1990: Tries to buy electronic components for bomb triggers from U.S. company.

1990: 70 to 80 high-explosive tests in North Korea of bomb components are reported by South Korean press.

1990: Tests large plutonium processing plant, showing it is operational.

1990: Starts up new plant to process uranium for reactor fuel.

1990: Continues to produce plutonium and process it into weapon-ready form.

1990: Successfully tests a Scud-C missile, hitting targets off North Korea's eastern coast from a base in the Kangwon Province; Iran reportedly tests what U.S. intelligence identifies as a North Korean version of the Scud-C.

1991: Refuses Japan's offer of aid and recognition in exchange for inspections.

1991: South Korea's Defense Minister states that South Korea may attack construction of the Yongbyon (50-Mwt.) reactor.

1991: Demands that South Korea give up U.S. nuclear protection.

1991: U.S. begins to remove nuclear weapons from South Korea.

1991: Continues to produce plutonium and process it into weapon-ready form.

1991: Sells nuclear-capable Scud-C missiles to Syria and Iran.

1991: North and South Korea agree to denuclearize the peninsula and not to produce, test, receive, deploy or possess nuclear weapon fuel or weapons, or the means to make it.Continues to refuse inspections.

1991-92: North Korea delivers an estimated 24 Scud-Cs and 20 mobile launchers to Syria, and ships additional Scuds to Syria through Iran.

1992: Promises to allow inspections of entire nuclear program by IAEA, as agreed in 1985.

1992: U.S. intelligence observes a truck hauling things away from a plutonium extraction plant.

1992: To show good will, U.S. and South Korea cancel military exercises.

1992: North Korea declares to IAEA that it has seven sites and about 90 grams of plutonium.

1992: In 5 trips, lets inspectors visit 7 declared sites.

1992: Buries, according to U.S. intelligence, first floor of two-story building, believed to contain waste from plutonium extraction.

1992: Continues to produce plutonium and process it into weapon-ready form.

1992: IAEA concludes there are inconsistencies in North Korea's nuclear declaration, and requests access to two additional sites at Yongbyon; North Korea denies access to one site and only visual access to the other.

1992: Russia reportedly prevents some 60 Russian rocket scientists from going to North Korea.

1992: The U.S. Department of State sanctions entities in North Korea, Iran and Syria for "missile technology proliferation activities."

1993: Inspectors ask to see two undeclared sites, on suspicion that secret plutonium processing will be revealed, and allow one month for compliance. U.S. aerial photographs and IAEA chemical analysis data confirm existence of a nuclear waste dump and inconsistencies in N. Korea's declaration of nuclear materials.

1993: Bars inspectors from undeclared sites and says that it will drop out of nonproliferation treaty. Inspectors declare North Korea has violated its obligations to open undeclared sites.

1993: Says U.N. sanctions would amount to a declaration of war.

1993: "Suspends" withdrawal from nonproliferation treaty but continues to bar inspectors from full inspection.

1993: President Clinton warns North Korea that using nuclear weapons against South Korea "will be the end of their country as they know it."

1993: Restricts inspectors to working at night by flashlight. A North Korean defector describes underground missile launch pads.

1993: Repudiates the nonproliferation treaty; breaks off talks with inspectors. Inspectors say their data is "damaged" and "deteriorating."

1993: Breaks off denuclearization talks with South Korea. President Clinton warns North Korea that it "cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb," and that "any attack on South Korea is an attack on the United States."

1993: IAEA reports to UN that if IAEA inspectors are not permitted to revisit North Korea's nuclear facilities, they can no longer verify the IAEA/North Korea safeguards agreement.

1993: North Korean diplomat is expelled from Moscow for trying to hire Russian scientists.

1993: Offers to let inspectors into only 5 of 7 declared sites, barring them from the 30-Mwt. reactor, the plutonium processing plant and two undeclared sites. Inspectors say their cameras no longer work.

1993: U.S. intelligence says North Korea has a "better than even" chance of possessing one or two bombs.

1993: Manufactures fuel for its 200-Mwt. reactor.

1993: Continues to produce plutonium.

1993: North Korea successfully tests the Nodong missile to a range of about 500km.

1994: Agrees to one-time inspection of all seven declared sites, but balks at procedures.

1994: CIA Director says he believes North Korea may have produced one or two nuclear bombs.

1994: Agrees to inspection procedures but delays inspectors' visas and continues to bar inspectors from undeclared sites. Threatens to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if U.S. sends Patriot anti-missile batteries to South Korea.

1994: Inspectors find seals broken, are denied access to crucial equipment and cannot certify North Korean compliance.

1994: IAEA terminates inspections after North Korea bars inspectors from collecting samples at its plutonium reprocessing plant.

1994: U.S. cancels scheduled talks.

1994: IAEA announces again that it can no longer ensure that North Korea's nuclear materials were not being diverted for nonpeaceful purposes.

1994: North Korea begins removing spent fuel from the 5 Mwt. reactor, in "serious violation" of North Korea's safeguard agreement with IAEA. U.S. offers to hold high-level talks. IAEA reports that it is quickly losing ability to monitor past production of plutonium.

1994: IAEA tells UN Security Council that North Korea's recent removal of fuel rods makes it impossible to reconstruct the operating history of the reactor.

1994: IAEA exempts North Korea from technical assistance; North Korea reacts by quitting IAEA.

1994: U.S. announces it will pursue global economic sanctions against North Korea if North Korea does not allow IAEA inspectors to examine the spent fuel rods.

1994: U.S. builds up its troops in South Korea and announces it will begin consultations with other countries regarding sanctions.

1994: Former President Carter visits North Korea; Kim Il Sung offers to freeze North Korea's nuclear program in return for high-level talks between the U.S. and North Korea. U.S. offers to resume high-level talks and suspends efforts to sanction North Korea.

1994: U.S. begins negotiations with North Korea on freezing North Korea's nuclear program. Kim Il Sung dies; talks are suspended.

1994: U.S. and North Korea issue an "Agreed Statement,"under which North Korea will rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in exchange for light-water reactors, interim energy supplies and normalization of political and economic relations.

1994: U.S. and North Korea conclude an "Agreed Framework," in which President Clinton promises to help arrange, finance and construct the light-water reactors and fund interim energy supplies.

1994: North Korea announces that it has halted construction on its two unfinished graphite-moderated reactors.

1994: Chinese President Jiang Zemin promises the U.S. that China will strongly support the U.S.-North Korea agreement.

1994: IAEA inspectors confirm North Korea has frozen its nuclear program and stopped construction on the unfinished reactors.

1994: U.S. helicopter strays over North Korea and is shot down; one pilot is killed, Bobby Hall is taken prisoner and released 13 days later.

1995: Russia sends a delegation to Pyongyang to persuade North Korea to use Russian atomic reactors.

1995: Secretary of State Warren Christopher estimates to Congress that U.S. share of the deal with North Korea would be $20-30 million per year over a decade or more.

1995: U.S., Japan and South Korea establish the KEDO consortium.

1995: KEDO announces it will provide North Korea with two South Korean-manufactured lightwater reactors.

1995: CIA Director John Deutch estimates that the Nodong-1 missile will be deployed by the end of 1996, and that North Korea is continuing missile research and work on nuclear, chemical and biological warheads.

1995: KEDO and North Korea reach an agreement on the supply of two light-water reactors, worth $4.5 billion, financed primarily by South Korea and Japan.

1995: According to comments by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Iran has received four Scud TELs from North Korea.

1996: U.S. intelligence reportedly voices increased concern about North Korea's success in securing sensitive technology for its Nodong missile program.

1996: North Korea announces it will no longer respect the demilitarized zone and holds military exercises there for three days.

1996: A North Korean submarine, believed to be spying, runs aground off the coast of South Korea.

1996: North Korea announces it will withhold from the IAEA any new nuclear information until the light-water reactors are finished and operating, a period of 10 years or more.

1996: South Korea delays progress on the Agreed Framework in reaction to the submarine incident.

1996: North Korea reportedly obtains European-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

1996: China joins the UN Security Council in criticizing North Korea and expressing "serious concern" about the submarine incident.

1996: North Korea reportedly is set to test fire a Nodong-1 ballistic missile capable of reaching Japan.

1996: South Korea demands a formal apology from North Korea for the submarine incident.

1996: North Korea apologizes to South Korea for the September submarine incident, and promises to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents in the future.

1996: North Korea agrees to face-to-face talks with South Korea and the United States on the possibility of negotiating a formal end to the Korean War.

1996: The United States and North Korea begin bilateral talks on how to curb North Korea's missile exports and freeze its missile development.

1996: Taiwanese Customs officials reportedly seize 200 barrels (15 tons) of ammonium perchlorate on a North Korean freighter bound for Pakistan's SUPARCO (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission).

1997: Top North Korean theoretician and close adviser to Kim Jong Il defects to South Korea.

April 1997: A South Korean newspaper publishes an essay written by a high-ranking North Korean defector, in which he implies that North Korea has nuclear weapons and the ability to use them against South Korea and Japan.

August 1997: Construction begins on two light-water nuclear reactors being built in North Korea as part of the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States.

May 1998: Unhappy about the slow pace of activity under the Agreed Framework, it is reported that North Korea may reopen the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

June 1998: North Korea declares that it will continue to develop and export nuclear-capable missiles.

July 1998: The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) reports that North Korea is refusing to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors full access to its nuclear sites.

July 1998: Negotiators from the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO), the consortium building the two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework, reach a tentative agreement on sharing the cost of the construction.

August 1998: U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea is building a large underground facility that may be either a nuclear reactor or reprocessing plant.

March 1999: A U.S. Department of Energy intelligence report claims that North Korea is working on uranium enrichment techniques.

May 1999: A team of American nuclear specialists arrives in North Korea to begin an inspection of what is suspected of being an underground nuclear weapons site at Kumchangri.

July 1999: A U.S. intelligence report claims that North Korea has between 25 and 30 kilograms of weapon-grade plutonium, enough to make several nuclear warheads.

January 2000: It is reported that the Congo may be supplying North Korea with uranium in return for military training of its government forces.

February 2000: Two loans totalling $4.2 billion are made available to the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to build two nuclear reactors in North Korea. Although the project is still short $400 million, preparatory work is moving ahead.

June 2000: In the wake of a historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, the Clinton administration formally implements steps to ease economic sanctions against North Korea.

October 2000: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assesses that North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons.