North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program [Updated November 8, 2002]   [open pdf - 80KB]

"North Korea's nuclear weapons program became an immediate foreign policy issue facing the United States because of North Korea's refusal to carry out its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other nuclear accords it had signed. North Korea has constructed nuclear reactors and a plutonium reprocessing plant at a site called Yongbyon. U.S. intelligence assessments have concluded that North Korea probably has manufactured at least one nuclear weapon. The United States and North Korea signed an agreement on October 21, 1994, that offers North Korea a package of benefits in return for a freeze of North Korea's nuclear program. Benefits to North Korea include: light water nuclear reactors totaling 2,000 electric megawatts; shipments of 'heavy oil' to North Korea (50,000 tons in 1995 and 500,000 tons annually beginning in 1996 until the first light water reactor is built). The pace of implementation of the Agreed Framework has been very slow. Instead of the original target date of 2003, it generally is estimated that completion of the light water reactors will not take place until well beyond 2010. The United States has faced several policy problems since the signing of the Agreed Framework, including securing money annually to finance heavy oil shipments to North Korea (the cost of the oil has risen from about $30 million in 1995 to over $100 million), suspicions of clandestine North Korean nuclear activities, and North Korea's development of long range missiles. In October 2002, under U.S. diplomatic pressure, North Korea admitted that it was conducting a secret nuclear weapons program based on uranium enrichment. The Bush Administration demanded that North Korea end the secret program in accord with its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency."

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CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB91141
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