U.S.-North Korean relations
entered a new chapter following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. President George W. Bush faced unprecedented
challenges on how to proceed with delicate foreign policy decisions.
his State of the Union address in January 2002, four months after the attacks,
President Bush targeted North Korea as a regime that sponsored terrorism and said
North Korea, Iraq and Iran constituted an "axis of evil."
like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to
threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these
regimes pose a grave and growing danger," the president explained. "In
any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."
Korea reacted angrily to the U.S. president's remarks. In the week following the
State of the Union, the official Korean Central News Agency quoted an unnamed
North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman who said the speech was "little short
of declaring a war against the DPRK."
The heightened tension resulted
in several dramatic incidents, including a military encounter on March 2, 2003
in which four North Korean jet fighters intercepted a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance
plane in international airspace over the Sea of Japan and "shadowed"
it for 22 minutes before letting it go, according to Pentagon officials who called
the action a serious provocation.
The incident was the first hostile act
by North Korean aircraft against a U.S. plane since the 1960s.
with the reclusive Communist nation further soured between 2003 and 2006 when
diplomatic efforts aimed at encouraging North Korea to end its nuclear program
failed and North Korea conducted its first confirmed nuclear test.