North Korea signed an agreement with the United States in 1994 under which it pledged to freeze its nuclear program in return for U.S. promises of $4.5 billion in new nuclear energy reactors and alternative energy supplies. In August of 1998, South Korea reported that U.S. spy satellite photos showed thousands of workers burrowing into a mountainside near Yongbyon, the site of a nuclear plant mothballed under the 1994 agreement. If the underground site proved to be a secret venue for continuing the weapons program, Washington warned that the project would have serious consequences for the U.S.-North Korea relationship. And so began a series of essentially pointless talks between North Korea and the U.S.
The North Koreans repeatedly denied that the building work was part of a nuclear weapons program, which would violate the 1994 agreement. Nevertheless, the U.S. thought it wise to check out the site first-hand. One hitch: North Korea demanded $300 million in compensation for the inspection, claiming that the U.S. is guilty of slander. The U.S. refused to pay reparations but consistently responded favorably to U.N. World Food Program appeals of emergency food for North Korea. Neither side would budge during months of negotiating until March, when North Korea gave the go-ahead for inspection. When the site was checked out in May, the U.S. found nothing more than an empty tunnel complex beneath the suspect building site in North Korea. Whoops!
August- South Korea reports that U.S. spy satellite photos show thousands of workers burrowing into a mountainside near Yongbyon, the site of a former nuclear plant. If found to be true, then North Korea will have broken the 1994 agreement under which North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for free fuel and safer nuclear reactors built by a global consortium.
Late September- North Korea denies recent reports that it is building a secret underground nuclear facility. But the United States calls for outside inspections of the suspected site.
Mid October- North Korea again denies that it is building a nuclear complex and claims to be ready to open its underground facilities to U.S. inspectors.
Late October- Plans announced for a U.S. diplomatic team, led by envoy Charles Kartman, to visit North Korea in order to voice American concerns about and seek access to the underground site.
November 9- The State Department announces that North Korea has asked the United States for cash as a condition of allowing an American mission to visit Pyongyang for talks on the suspected underground nuclear site. Demand for compensation is rejected.
November 12- North Korea also demands reparations for slander if it is proven that the site is not a secret nuclear facility.
November 16- Kartman leaves for North Korea, after three days in Seoul coordinating policies with South Korean officials. First round of talks is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan.
November 17- Second round of talks take place. State Department reports that U.S. delegation has told North Korea the United States must have access to the site of underground construction.
November 18- 12 hours of talks held, U.S. not satisfied with N. Korea responses. North Koreans reportedly asked the United States to pay $300 million for the right to inspect.
November 19- Kartman reports that, after two days of intensive talks, the United States and North Korea remain far apart over U.S. demands to see the underground project. U.S. still refuses to provide compensation. U.S. says failure to secure access to inspect the site could jeopardise the 1994 agreement. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen says American officials are "concerned" about reports that traces of plutonium have been detected at suspected nuclear weapons production facilities.
November 21- U.S. softens claims against North Korea, admitting that there is no conclusive evidence of an established nuclear facility. President Clinton pays a visit to N. Korea with American troops positioned by the N/S Korean border, in a show of military power. Clinton and S. Korean President Kim Dae-jung urged North Korea to abide by its agreements on nuclear nonproliferation and warned against "further provocations."
November 23- Following Clinton's departure, North Korea strongly denies U.S. claims that it is building an underground nuclear facility, and says such reports are part of a smear campaign by the United States and South Korea. U.S. still presses for inspection of the underground facility, N. Korea still demands $300 million in reparations, so there is a standstill.
December 4- More than 100,000 North Korean soldiers, workers and students demonstrated Friday, vowing an "all-out" war against the United States. The United States and North Korea are set to resume talks on the 11th about inspections of the underground site.
December 4-5- First round of talks held in New York City.
December 6- A U.S. Envoy William Perry arrives in Seoul to discuss North Korean policy issues, and the possibility that the nuclear pact with Pyongyang could be in danger.
December 7- Perry meets with S. Korean President Kim Dae-jung.
December 8- The United States and North Korea agree to extend talks. Negotiating teams plan to meet in New York City on the 10th, where the talks will resume on the 11th. Perry goes from Seoul to Beijing as he reviews policies towards N. Korea.
December 11- After six days in New York and Washington, talks conclude with N. Koreans still refusing access to the underground facility. Both sides, however, felt that progress was made and agreed to meet again as soon as possible.
December 14- North Korea drops demand for $300 in reparations.
January 11- North Korea renews demand for $300 in reparations.
January 12- In N. Korea's official newspaper, an editorial threatens that N. Korea will abandon the key nuclear accord, accusing Washington of failing to keep its commitments in the agreement. The $300 million compensation is again rejected by the U.S. Defense Secretary.
January 15- U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen appeals to North Korea to cool tensions on the Korean peninsula, saying U.S. and South Korean forces were more confident than ever of a "decisive victory" if attacked.
*lots of more talks occur, with very little progress until, finally...*
March- N. Korea agrees to inspection of site.
May-A U.S. nuclear inspection team finds an empty tunnel complex
beneath the suspect building site in North Korea.