SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea appeared on Thursday to have returned to testing its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time since 2017.
The launch leaves the diplomatic legacy of former U.S. President Donald Trump and outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in in tatters. Both had touted North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on such testing as a key success from several years of engagement.
Amid stalled denuclearisation talks that U.S. President Joe Biden has struggled to jumpstart, Thursday’s test highlighted the bumpy road that led from threats of “fire and fury” to historic summits with Kim Jong Un to stalled talks and disappointment, and now back to major weapons tests.
Following are key moments in North Korea’s missile tests and its foreign relations, in particular with the United States, over the past few years.
Capping a year that saw North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch, a nuclear test, and a war of words between leader Kim Jong Un and then-U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korea test-fires a Hwasong-15 ICBM, capable of reaching the entire United States, and declares it has become a nuclear power.
North Korean official Kim Yong Chol expresses willingness for U.S. talks while visiting South Korea for the Winter Olympics.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s envoy delivers Kim’s invitation for Trump to visit North Korea; Trump agrees to meet Kim.
Kim and Moon meet for first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade, pledging to work for “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”. They meet again in May and September.
Kim and Trump hold their first summit, in Singapore, agreeing to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in exchange for U.S. security guarantees.
South Korea and U.S. announce a suspension of joint military exercises.
North Korea returns the remains of 55 U.S. soldiers.
North Korea displays floats and flowers but no long-range missiles at military parade.
White House unveils Kim’s proposal for second summit.
Kim guides test of “cutting-edge tactical weapon”.
Trump and Kim end their second summit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi without an agreement due to differences over demands by Pyongyang for sanctions relief and by Washington for North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.
Kim supervises tests of rockets and a new short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) in first such tests since the Nov. 2017 ICBM launch.
North Korea fires two KN-23 SRBMs.
Trump and Kim meet for the third time in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.
Kim inspects a large, new submarine, possibly designed for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).
July 25, 31
North Korea launches KN-23 SRBMs.
North Korea fires two more KN-23 SRBMs; Trump says the tests do not violate his agreement with Kim.
Aug. 6, 10, 16
North Korea fires more KN-23 and tactical missiles.
Kim oversees the test of a new “super-large” multiple launch rocket system (MLRS).
North Korea tests “super-large” MLRS.
North Korea test-fires new Pukguksong-3 SLBMs.
Trump says Kim and he get along well and “like” and “respect” each other.
North Korea tests the “super-large” MLRS.
Kim vows to further develop nuclear programmes and introduce a “new strategic weapon”.
March 3, 9, 14
North Korea tests MLRS and short-range missiles.
Kim supervises test of new tactical guided weapon. Trump sends letter to Kim offering help on the new coronavirus.
North Korea tests “super-large” MLRS.
North Korea unveils a new ICBM and SLBM at military parade.
Trump says he has a very good relationship with Kim and stopped war. Biden likens Kim to Adolf Hitler and calls him a “thug”.
North Korea fires two short-range cruise missiles but the United States plays down the first such tests under President Joe Biden and said it was still open to dialogue.
North Korea tests a new long-range cruise missile, state media say, seen by analysts as possibly the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability.
North Korea fires a pair of ballistic missiles off its east coast. North Korean state media says it was a new “railway-borne missile system.”
North Korea fires its first “hypersonic missile” featuring a gliding warhead.
North Korea test-fires a new SLBM launched from a Sinpo-class submarine, reportedly featuring advanced guidance technologies, and capable of “pull-up” manoeuvres.
North Korea test-fires a second type of hypersonic missile. Analysts says it appears to have a Manoeuvrable Reentry Vehicle (MaRV) to carry its warhead.
North Korea conducts a second test of that hypersonic missile, showcasing improved capabilities over the first launch.
The Biden administration imposes its first sanctions over North Korea’s weapons programmes.
North Korea test-fires two KN-23 SRBMs from two separate trains.
North Korea test-launches two long-range cruise missiles.
North Korea fires a Hwasong-12, the first launch of an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) since 2017.
Feb. 27 and March 5
North Korea launches two ballistic missiles towards East Sea. It does not identify the missiles involved, but says it was testing components for a reconnaissance satellite. U.S. and South Korean officials say the launches were secret tests of North Korea’s new Hwasong-17 ICBM system, though not to its full range or capability.
Conservative Yoon Suk-yeol is elected president in South Korea. While saying he is open to diplomacy, he vows to take a more hardline approach to North Korea than his predecessor.
South Korea’s military said it had detected activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site to restore at least some tunnels that were demolished in 2018 when the site was closed.
The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier leads military exercises in the Yellow Sea, and air defence artillery at Osan air base in South Korea intensify drills in response to increase North Korean missile tests.
South Korea reports that a suspected ballistic missile fails shortly after being launched from the Pyongyang international airport and explodes in mid-air.
North Korea conducts a full test of an ICBM, according to South Korea and Japan, the first such launch since 2017.
(Reporting by Josh Smith)