China, North Korea, and Nuclear Arms

As tensions again escalate on the Korean Peninsula, ChinaFile has compiled more than a decade of developments in North Korea’s nuclear armaments program. We begin our timeline in late 2002, when China first joined diplomatic discussions paving the way for what would become known as the “Six-Party Talks” on denuclearizing North Koream—talks that included for the first time, diplomats from both North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States. Fully-searchable, the timeline links each development to news headlines from the day and is sortable by country. - Ouyang Bin, David Barreda, Zhang Xiaoran, Feng Huanhuan, Luo Xiaoyuan

2002-10-01 00:00:00

North Korea intensifies its nuclear threat

North Korea intensifies its nuclear threat by reactivating its nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon.

2002-10-01 00:00:01

China’s response

President Jiang Zemin consults with U.S. President George W. Bush regarding P.R.C. attempts to halt North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship.

2002-10-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The U.S. says North Korea has admitted to having a secret weapons program. The U.S. decides to halt oil shipments to the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

2003-01-01 00:00:00

North Korea withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

North Korea announces that it will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a key international agreement aimed at preventing the spread of atomic weapons.

2003-01-01 00:00:01

China’s response

Xinhua, the state-run news agency of the P.R.C., reports that President Jiang Zemin expressed his disagreement with North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT in a telephone conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush, the first clear expression of China’s support for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

2003-01-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

U.S. Secretary of Defense Colin Powell visits China seeking further discussion and calls on the IAEA to refer the North Korean nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council for resolution.

2003-01-01 00:00:03

South Korea’s response

South Korea asks China to use its influence with North Korea to try to reduce tension over the nuclear issue.

2003-01-01 00:00:04

Russia’s response

Russia offers to press Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

2003-08-01 00:00:00

First round of Six-Party Talks

The first round of Six-Party Talks is held in Beijing. The talks achieve no significant breakthroughs. North Korea proposes a step-by-step solution, calling for the United States to conclude a “non-aggression treaty,” normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, complete the reactors promised under the Agreed Framework, resume suspended fuel oil shipments, and increase food aid.

2003-08-01 00:00:01

China’s response

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi outlines six points of consensus that have been reached by the end of the first round of Six-Party Talks, including a commitment to resolve the nuclear issue through peaceful means and dialogue, and pursuing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula while still considering North Korea’s security.

2003-08-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

President George W. Bush agrees to waive the restrictions on U.S. funding to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) but only pledges to provide $3.72 million solely intended for administrative expenses. After 2003, the United States ceases funding for the KEDO.

2005-09-01 00:00:00

Six-Party Talks achieve breakthrough

The Six-Party Talks achieve the first breakthrough in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis, issuing a joint statement on agreed steps toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. North Korea commits itself to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing programs, returning to the Nonproliferation Treaty and accepting International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

2005-09-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China states its willingness to supply North Korea with energy aid.

2005-09-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The United States affirms that it will not deploy nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, and states its willingness to supply North Korea with energy aid, promising an ongoing commitment to normalizing relations with North Korea.

2006-07-01 00:00:00

North Korea launches seven missiles

North Korea launches seven missiles over the Sea of Japan, including a new, long-range Taepodong-2 model that explodes soon after launch.

2006-07-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China repeats calls for calm and restraint, pleading with all parties involved to refrain from any action that will further complicate the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

2006-07-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

U.S. President George W. Bush states that the tests have "isolated Korea" but America will continue to encourage Six-Party Talks, rather than be drawn into one-on-one negotiations with Pyongyang.

2006-07-01 00:00:03

Japan and South Korea’s response

Japan and South Korea punish North Korea for the tests, with Tokyo imposing sanctions on Pyongyang and Seoul halting food and fertilizer assistance.

2006-10-01 00:00:00

North Korea announces first nuclear test

North Korea announces it has conducted its first nuclear test, becoming the eighth country in history—and arguably the most unstable—to join the club of nuclear armed states.

2006-10-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China says that the nuclear test will negatively impact the bilateral relationship between China and North Korea and asserts that punitive measures must be taken. China agrees to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which imposes sanctions on Pyongyang. By signing on to this resolution, Beijing signals a shift in tactics toward its neighbor.

2006-10-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The Bush administration pushes U.N. Resolution 1718.

2007-09-01 00:00:00

The sixth round of Six-Party Talks

Delegates to the sixth round of Six-Party Talks meet to discuss how to proceed with the second phase of the February 13 agreement. Pyongyang agrees to disable all other nuclear facilities subject to the September 2005 joint statement and to not transfer nuclear material or technology abroad. The six parties agree that North Korea will receive the remaining 900,000 tons of heavy fuel oil pledged in the agreement.

2007-09-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China expects all parties to push the talks smoothly to a new stage.

2007-09-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The United States agrees that it will fulfill its commitments to begin removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and advance the process of terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act toward North Korea “parallel with” North Korea’s progress towards denuclearization.

2008-06-01 00:00:00

North Korea hands China nuclear declaration

North Korea hands over its long-awaited nuclear declaration to China, indicating it separated thirty kilograms of plutonium and used about two kilograms for its 2006 nuclear test.

2008-06-01 00:00:01

China’s response

Chinese government stresses that North Korea should discharge its obligations to give up its nuclear program and the other parties honor their pledges to provide economic and energy assistance to North Korea.

2008-06-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

President George W. Bush stops applying the Trading with the Enemy Act to Pyongyang, and notifies Congress of his intention to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after 45 days, in accordance with U.S. law.

2009-04-01 00:00:00

North Korea launches the Unha-2 rocket

North Korea launches the three-stage Unha-2 rocket, widely believed to be a modified version of its long range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile. Although North Korea claims the rocket put a satellite into orbit, U.S. Northern Command reports that the first stage landed in the Sea of Japan, and that the remaining stages, along with the payload, fell into the Pacific Ocean.

2009-04-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China says on April 14 that it disapproves of the United Nations adopting any new resolution on the D.P.R.K. rocket launch, and that it is opposed to any new sanctions against the D.P.R.K.

2009-04-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

President Barack Obama states, "North Korea's development and proliferation of ballistic missile technology pose a threat to the northeast Asian region and to international peace and security... With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations."

2009-04-01 00:00:03

South Korea’s response

South Korea states, "The North's launch is a provocative act that clearly violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 that regardless of the North's claims threatens peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia."

2009-04-01 00:00:04

Japan’s response

Prime Minister Taro Aso says, "the fact that North Korea went ahead with the launch despite repeated warnings from around the world, especially the United States, South Korea and Japan, was an extremely provocative act and one that Japan cannot let go unchallenged. So, cooperating with the international community, we want to respond (considering that) it was clearly a violation of the U.N. resolutions."

2009-05-01 00:00:00

North Korea claims underground nuclear test

North Korea says it has successfully carried out an underground nuclear test, its second ever, drawing protests from the U.S., China, and Russia. It also announces that it no longer considers itself bound by the terms of the 1953 truce that ended the war between the two Koreas.

2009-05-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China’s Foreign Ministry releases this statement: "The D.P.R.K. ignored universal opposition of the international community and once more conducted the nuclear test. The Chinese government is resolutely opposed to it." Beijing also urges North Korea to "return to the track of the Six-Party Talks."

2009-05-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The White House condemns the test, saying, "North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community. The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants action by the international community." U.S. President Barack Obama’s official statement promises that North Korea will not find "international acceptance" unless it complies.

2010-03-01 00:00:00

South Korean navy ship sinks, killing 46

Cheonan, a South Korean Navy ship carrying 104 personnel, sinks off the country's west coast near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 seamen. An official investigation carried out by a team of international experts from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden suggests that the Cheonan may have been sunk by a torpedo fired from a North Korean midget submarine.

2010-03-01 00:00:01

China’s response

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai says that the sinking of the South Korean ship, the Cheonan, was "unfortunate" and that any response to the incident should be aimed at maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, however, vows that China "will not protect" the perpetrators. China resists U.S. calls for a tougher line against North Korea.

2010-03-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the attack and says it can't be "business as usual" on the Korean Peninsula. Clinton calls for an international response, saying that there must be "consequences" for North Korea's actions. The Pentagon announces a joint military exercise by U.S. and South Korean forces, focusing on anti-submarine and maritime interdiction capabilities.

2010-03-01 00:00:03

South Korea’s response

2010-11-01 00:00:00

The bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island

North Korean and South Korean forces exchange fire off the west coast of the divided Korean Peninsula. The skirmish leaves at least two South Korean marines dead and sixteen others injured. North Korea's military insists it did not open fire first and blames South Korea for the incident. Tensions escalate and prompt widespread international condemnation of the North's actions.

2010-11-01 00:00:01

China’s response

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urges both sides "to do things conducive to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula," but does not explicitly condemn North Korea's actions.

2010-11-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The White House Office of the Press Secretary says, "The United States strongly condemns this attack and calls on North Korea to halt its belligerent action and to fully abide by the terms of the Armistice Agreement." The U.S. aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington departs for joint exercises in the Yellow Sea with the South Korean Navy, in part to deter further North Korean military action.

2012-02-01 00:00:00

The U.S. and North Korea announce an agreement

The United States and North Korea announce, in separate statements, an agreement under which North Korea will suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant, invite IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension, and implement moratoriums on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

2012-02-01 00:00:01

China’s response

China reiterates its typical public stance, saying that peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula are of the utmost importance, and urges all parties to resume the Six-Party Talks.

2012-02-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The Obama administration calls the steps “important, if limited.” As part of the agreement, the United States says it will send about 265,000 tons of food, though aid will be limited to nutritional supplements, rather than rice and grains.

2012-04-01 00:00:00

Kim Jong-un assumes leadership

Kim Jong-un formally takes over ruling party leadership, becoming First Secretary of the Workers Party. The launch of a rocket to mark the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, fails. Most observers assume it is a long-range missile test of the sort that North Korea had agreed to suspend in return for U.S. food aid. North Korea replies that it is no longer bound by the agreement, which also bans nuclear tests.

2012-04-01 00:00:01

China’s response

Hong Lei, a spokesman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says China expresses regret for North Korea’s missile launch. Hong urges “all to remain calm and exercise restraint in an effort to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region.” Xinhua News Agency publishes an article by researcher Gao Haorong, who describes North Korea as ‘intransigent’ and says criticism of North Korea's move as a “provocation” by the United States, Japan and South Korea is “not groundless.”

2012-04-01 00:00:02

United States’ response

The U.S. condemns the North Korean announcement as "highly provocative" and a direct violation of Pyongyang's international obligations. The U.S. also halts its plans to send food aid to North Korea.

2012-12-01 00:00:00

North Korea launches a replacement satellite

The North Korean Central News Agency reports the satellite entered the earth's orbit.

2012-12-01 00:00:01

China’s response

The Foreign Ministry says it "hope[s] parties concerned can take a long-term perspective, deal with this calmly and appropriately, avoid taking actions that may further escalate the situation, and jointly maintain the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region as a whole."

China, North Korea, and Nuclear Arms

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