U.S.-North korean diplomatic Timeline
Here's a look at previous attempts at dialogue and how the Trump-Kim summit plan came about.
While no sitting U.S. president has met with a North Korean leader, Jimmy Carter met Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder, in 1994. Against the wishes of President Bill Clinton, Carter traveled to Pyongyang, after U.S. intelligence agencies said they believed the North was processing plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. Carter's meeting with Kim, who died three weeks later, set in motion the resumption of talks that led to the Agreed Framework. North Korea halted the construction of two reactors that could be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons in exchange for oil and the promise of two light-water nuclear reactors that could produce energy but not weapons fuel. Congress delayed the oil shipments and refused to immediately lift sanctions, and the light-water reactors were never built.
Kim Il Sung's successor, Kim Jong Il, and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung met in Pyongyang in 2000, the first summit meeting between the Korean leaders since the Korean War 50 years earlier. The talks ushered in an unprecedented rapprochement. Kim Jong Il invited Clinton to North Korea in 2000; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went instead. She went to expand the Agreed Framework to include ballistic missiles, which North Korea was selling abroad. Nothing was concluded when George W. Bush took office in 2001.
The Agreed Framework collapsed in 2002 after the U.S. confronted the North over its secret program to enrich uranium. The U.S. stopped oil shipments to North Korea, and Pyongyang restarted its nuclear weapons program. The so-called Six-Party Talks continued among representatives of the North and South, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. The North said in 2005 that it would give up nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees. It carried out its first nuclear test in 2006.
In 2007, Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun held a second summit. The meeting produced an agreement easing military tensions along the disputed maritime border. Roh's conservative successor quickly scrapped it. The Six-Party Talks collapsed in 2009, largely over the question of allowing international inspectors into North Korean sites. That same year, Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Il to secure the release of two U.S. journalists. Kim Jong Il died in 2011, and his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, took over.
The Obama administration pursued a strategy of escalating sanctions, although diplomatic meetings continued. A deal appeared to be reached Feb. 29, with the North allowing the return of inspectors and halting its nuclear weapons programs in return for U.S. food aid. However, the deal died soon after when North Korea launched a rocket to put a satellite in orbit.
During the campaign, Donald Trump said he would be willing to hold direct talks with Kim as part of efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear program. But after Trump became president, North Korea tested ballistic missiles with increasingly longer ranges that put the U.S. within reach. The North then carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation. Trump threatened to assail North Korea with "fire and fury;" undeterred, North Korea said it was considering a strike against Guam. At the U.N. General Assembly, Trump vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatened the U.S. or its allies. Trump's U.N. speech came just days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan.
New York Times