North Korea's quest for nuclear weapons dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War and relied on the former Soviet Union, China and more recently a smuggling ring linked to a disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist.
After the war, when Washington stationed nuclear warheads in South Korea and Japan, Pyongyang, received help from the Soviet Union and China, and launched its own drive to acquire the bomb.
Later, assistance was obtained in crucial technology areas from other countries, including Pakistan.
In the mid-1950s North Korea signed a research agreement with Moscow under which hundreds of its scientists were trained in nuclear physics by the Soviets. Pyongyang later signed a similar cooperation agreement with China.
Around 1960 North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung ordered the construction of an atomic energy research complex in Yongbyon, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Pyongyang.
Two years later Soviet scientists helped the North Koreans assemble a two-megawatt IRT-200 research reactor shipped by Moscow to Pyongyang. In return, North Korea exported the spent fuel back to the Soviet Union. The reactor was operation in 1965.
In 1974, North Korean leader Kim visited China, and reportedly won China's promise to train more North Korean nuclear scientists.
North Korea was ready to step up its nuclear drive and five years later began work on a second reactor at Yongbyon. The five-megawatt research reactor was operational in 1987, and ready to produce some seven kilogrammes of plutonium a year, enough for one or two nuclear weapons.
In 1989, US satellite pictures showed the existence of a reprocessing plant at the Yongbyon complex.
At about the same time, the reactor was shut down and North Korea was suspected of unloading it and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods to separate around 12 kilogrammes of plutonium, enough for a couple of atomic bombs.
Washington accused North Korea of actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Pyongyang denies the charge but started to build two larger reactors, a 50-megawatt and a 200-megawatt plant.
Gathering tension about North Korea's nuclear ambitions reached crisis point when the United States reported several undeclared nuclear sites in North Korea and Pyongyang rejected outside inspections and threatened to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The two-year-long standoff was headed off in 1994 when Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the construction of safe nuclear reactors for the impoverished country.
The deal, however, has failed to dispel suspicions that the Stalinist country was secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Finally it unravelled in October 2002 when Washington said North Korea, while freezing its plutonium-based programme, had admitted secretly using a different route to nuclear weapons, helped by Pakistan.
North Korea began seeking nuclear weapons fuel through uranium enrichment while the ink was still wet on the 1994 accord, according to US sources.
The program was given a boost by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, who in 2004 admitted proliferating nuclear technology to North Korea and other countries.
According to US reports he made 13 trips to North Korea in the 1990s and helped supply uranium enrichment equipment and possibly even warhead designs.
All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
India Seeks Nuclear Trade With World
New Delhi (UPI) May 17, 2005
Seven years after declaring itself a nuclear weapons state, India is taking steps to show the international community it is a responsible nuclear power.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|