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A History of U.S.-DPRK Relations

Bill Clinton and Kim Jong Il, 2009
Former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea in 2009 to secure the release of two detained American journalists, meeting with Kim Jong Il while in Pyongyang.

There are few bilateral relationships in the world which have been more consistently difficult than the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. For decades after the Korean War, there was nearly no direct diplomatic contact between the two countries. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States and North Korea have engaged in on-and-off nuclear negotiations, which have ultimately failed to stop Pyongyang from building a small nuclear arsenal. The two countries have not established diplomatic relations, and a peace treaty ending the Korean War has not been signed.

This Issue Brief reviews the history of U.S. relations with North Korea, with an emphasis on nuclear diplomacy during the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. It also includes summaries of topics including U.S. policy toward North Korean human rights, U.S. humanitarian assistance to North Korea, and the resolution of POW/MIA issues from the Korean War.

The full Issue Brief is available here.