Ten historic moments in relations between US and North Korea

Ten historic moments in relations between US and North Korea

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are to meet in Singapore on Tuesday for a summit that will be the first of its kind between leaders of the rival nations.

Here are some of the historic moments in relations between the United States and North Korea:

1.  Korean War

The two countries fought on opposite sides of a three-year war in the early 1950s that killed millions of people, including 36,000 American soldiers. The war began in June 1950 when North Korean troops poured across the border at the 38th parallel and launched a surprise assault. A weak South Korean military was initially almost driven off the peninsula before the American-led UN forces pushed the invaders deep into North Korea. The Chinese military later intervened, pushing the UN forces back. The fighting ended with an armistice in July 1953 which has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.

2. Spy ship captured

In January 1968 North Korean navy boats attacked and captured the USS Pueblo off the North’s east coast. One US sailor was killed and 82 others were captured. They were held in North Korea for 11 months, beaten and interrogated before being released.

3. Axe murder

In the summer of 1976, two American soldiers were hacked to death by axe-wielding North Korean soldiers during a fight over US efforts to trim a poplar tree at Demilitarised Zone which bisects the Koreas. An enraged US responded by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ to intimidate North Korea. It remains the most notorious bloodshed at the DMZ, which is strewn with mines and barbed-wire fences.

North Korea DMZ
A North Korean soldier stands guard on the north side of the line separating North and South Korea (Wally Santana/AP)

In June 1994, former US president Jimmy Carter travelled to North Korea via the DMZ and had two rounds of talks with Kim Il Sung in an effort to resolve an early round of nuclear confrontation. After returning to the South, Carter conveyed Kim Il Sung’s offer for an inter-Korean summit and South Korean President Kim Young-sam accepted. What could have been the Koreas’ first summit fizzled out, however, after Kim Il Sung died of a heart attack in July 1994.

5. Agreed framework

In October 1994, the United States signed a landmark nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea, ending months of war fears triggered by the North’s threat to withdraw from the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and convert its stockpile of nuclear fuel into bombs. Under the pact called the Agreed Framework, the North froze its atomic activities and agreed to eventually dismantle its nuclear facilities in exchange for the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors for electricity generation and supply of oil. The deal collapsed in 2002.

6. Vice marshal visits the US

In October 2000, Kim Jong Il’s right-hand man and vice marshal, Jo Myong Rok, flew to the United States, becoming the most senior North Korean official to visit its wartime foe since the end of the Korean War. Jo met then-president Bill Clinton and delivered Kim’s personal letter.

7. Albright visits the North

US secretary of state Madeleine Albright made a reciprocal visit to Pyongyang to try to arrange a North Korea visit by Clinton.  The reconciliatory mood between the two countries shifted dramatically after president George W. Bush took office in January 2001 with a tough policy on the North. Clinton eventually went to North Korea as a former president in 2009 to secure the freedom of two detained American journalists held there.

8. Six-nation talks

The US was brought back to the negotiating table with North Korea in 2003, this time under the framework of six-party talks that also involved South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. During the on-and-off talks that continued until 2008, North Korea halted nuclear activities again and disabled some key elements at its main nuclear complex in return for security, economic and energy benefits.

9. Escalating tests

After taking power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in late 2011, Kim Jong Un started carrying out an unusually large number of weapons tests as part of his stated objective of building nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the US mainland. In 2017, especially, the world saw fears of war on the Korean Peninsula escalating dramatically after North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and three intercontinental ballistic missile test-launches.

Trump Kim Summit
US President Donald Trump arrives in Singapore for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Evan Vucci/AP)

Kim changed tactics in 2018, sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South and holding a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Kim has offered to negotiate away his nuclear programme if he’s provided with a reliable security guarantee from the United States.  Kim’s top lieutenant and former intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol travelled to the US and with a personal letter to Trump, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Pyongyang and met the North Korean leader twice.

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