Just the Facts

Five Facts on North Korea

By No Labels
June 4, 2018 | Blog

North Korea and the United States have been at odds since the dawn of the Cold War.  Beginning with open hostility during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 and progressing to serious threats of a nuclear confrontation in the present, the relationship has frustrated and concerned world leaders and ordinary citizens alike. On June 12, President Trump will become the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader when he sits down with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Here are five facts on how we got to this point:

The Korean peninsula was divided in the aftermath of World War II

For centuries, the Korean Peninsula was a unified country, ruled by generations of dynastic kingdoms. However, when the Allied powers—the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom—were deciding the post-war order, Korea was officially split in two. In August of 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union came to an agreement that split North and South Korea along the 38th parallel, with the United States controlling the south and the Soviet Union controlling the north. Over the next few years, both the United States and Soviet Union installed sympathetic governments, a capitalist government in the south and a communist regime in the north.

The Korean War was the first major armed conflict of the Cold War

It started on June 25, 1950, when 75,000 soldiers from the North Korea launched a surprise attack across the 38th parallel and took most of South Korea in an attempt to unify Korea under the communist North Korean regime. The United States, with the backing of the United Nations, launched immediate action to repel the attack. Although the Korean War was a conflict between South Korea and North Korea, it was also a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union, who viewed the Korean conflict as a battle between the communist East versus the capitalist West.

The Korean War never formally ended

In July 1953, after reaching a stalemate and having suffered a combined 5 million casualties, both parties signed a cease-fire agreement: The Korean Armistice Agreement. It called for a demilitarized zone between the two countries, though the prospect of war remains today. Earlier this year, the leaders of South and North Korea agreed that they would work towards peace and formally end the conflict by the end of the year.

North Korea’s nuclear program has been a decades-long priority

The program began with the establishment of the Atomic Energy Research Institute in 1952. Building on early development help from the Soviet Union, North Korea accelerated its own research and development through the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), becoming the only country to have withdrawn from the treaty. In 2006, North Korea announced its first nuclear test. While estimates of the bomb’s power revealed a relatively low explosive yield, North Korea demonstrated to the world its growing nuclear capabilities. In November 2017, North Korean media announced the country had launched a powerful intercontinental ballistic missile that experts believe could potentially reach the continental United States.

The proposed Singapore summit will be the highest-level talks between the United States and North Korea in history

U.S. Presidents such as Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama were all unsuccessful in their attempts to curb North Korea’s nuclear capabilities through non-proliferation treaties and economic sanctions.  On March 8, 2018, President Trump accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, at a summit in Singapore. If the meeting does take place, Donald Trump will be the first sitting American president to meet with a leader of North Korea.

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