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NORTH KOREA - Suspicious Minds, January 2003


Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "Suspicious Minds"

FACE-OFF
Short History: U.S.-North Korea Conflict

INTERVIEW WITH BEN ANDERSON
Versions of the Truth

FACTS & STATS
Learn More about North Korea

LINKS & RESOURCES
Nuclear Weapons, Military History, Humanitarian Issues

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FACE-OFF: A Short History of the United States-North Korea Conflict

North Korean flag


United States flag

One million North Koreans pack Pyongyang's main plaza, January, 2003, to support the country’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
One million North Koreans pack Pyongyang's main plaza in January 2003 to support the country's withdrawal from the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (AP/Wide World Photos)

2002: Nukes and the "Axis of Evil"
1994: Diplomacy With Pyongyang
1991: End of a Superpower
1976: An Axe Fight Nearly Triggers War
1968: Spy Ships and Infiltrators
1948: From Independence to War



When North Korea disclosed in fall 2002 an ongoing clandestine weapons program, it fueled rising fears worldwide about the threat of nuclear proliferation. The secret weapons program in North Korea violated a 1994 agreement with the United States, further damaging an already tense relationship. This relationship is marked by periodic crises between the two countries, whose intense rivalry dates back to the beginning of the Cold War.

In months following the disclosure, North Korea has withdrawn from a key nuclear arms-control treaty, expelled United Nations monitors, and restarted a mothballed nuclear reactor capable of processing material for nuclear bombs. A U.S. aircraft on a reconnaissance mission surveying the country's military activities 150 miles off the coast of North Korea was intercepted by North Korean fighter jets.

The U.S. has responded by committing radar-eluding Stealth war planes, which haven't been deployed to the region in a decade. And the Pentagon continues to increase military presence on the Pacific Island of Guam.

Every U.S. president since 1945 has been faced with the same essential question about North Korea: whether to pursue a policy of containment or an effort at engagement. When the Japanese ended their brutal regime in Korea at the close of World War II, they surrendered not to a single victor, but to U.S. forces in the South and to Soviet forces in the North.

The barbed wire that was rolled out on the 38th parallel became the demarcation point for two Koreas. Korea's division between the capitalist South and communist North, a line drawn by the world's superpowers, cut right across the middle of the country and separated countless families. On both sides of the line, there has been an almost palpable longing for reunification ever since.

Over the last 10 years, dialogue between the two Koreas offered hope for a reunified country. Relations between the United States and North Korea also warmed. But then the latest crisis broke out, revealing a residue of profound mistrust.

Here's an overview of watershed events in the history of U.S.-North Korean relations that help explain the deep layers of suspicion between the two countries.

2002: Nukes and the "Axis of Evil"
1994: Diplomacy With Pyongyang
1991: End of a Superpower
1976: An Axe Fight Nearly Triggers War
1968: Spy Ships and Infiltrators
1948: From Independence to War

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"Face-Off: A Short History United States-North Korea Conflict" by Kelly Whalen, a freelance writer and documentary producer based in Oakland, California.

Producer: Angela Morgenstern; Designed by: Susan Harris, Fluent Studios; see full web credits.

Editor's note: This page was slightly updated in March of 2003 for the encore broadcast of "Suspicious Minds."