U.S.-North Korea Pact Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The United States and North Korea signed a pact in which North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities in exchange for two light-water reactor power plants and other financial aid. The agreement ended an eighteen-month crisis provoked by North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its refusal to allow its nuclear facilities to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Summary of Event

During 1992, inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that North Korea had failed to declare in its inventory of nuclear materials and facilities the existence of two nuclear reactor sites, a plutonium extraction plant, and a stockpile of weapons-usable waste plutonium, near Yongbyon. On March 12, 1993, North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968)[Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and refused to admit IAEA inspectors to its nuclear sites. In December, 1993, the IAEA’s director-general, Hans Blix, reported to the United Nations Security Council that he could not give assurances that North Korea was not producing nuclear weapons. U.S.-North Korea Pact (1994)[U.S. North Korea Pact] Agreed Framework of 1994 Nuclear weapons;disarmament Weapons;nuclear [kw]U.S.-North Korea Pact (Oct. 21, 1994) [kw]North Korea Pact, U.S.- (Oct. 21, 1994) [kw]Korea Pact, U.S.-North (Oct. 21, 1994) [kw]Pact, U.S.-North Korea (Oct. 21, 1994) U.S.-North Korea Pact (1994)[U.S. North Korea Pact] Agreed Framework of 1994 Nuclear weapons;disarmament Weapons;nuclear [g]Europe;Oct. 21, 1994: U.S.-North Korea Pact[08970] [g]Switzerland;Oct. 21, 1994: U.S.-North Korea Pact[08970] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Oct. 21, 1994: U.S.-North Korea Pact[08970] Albright, Madeleine Blix, Hans Carter, Jimmy [p]Carter, Jimmy;postpresidency diplomacy Clinton, Bill [p]Clinton, Bill;U.S.-North Korea Pact[U.S. North Korea Pact] Kim Il Sung Kim Jong-il

In March, 1994, after direct negotiations with the United States, North Korea’s president, Kim Il Sung, agreed to permit IAEA inspections, but he again barred the inspectors from taking radioactive samples at the Yongbyon plutonium extraction plant. Consequently, on June 2, 1994, Blix informed the U.N. Security Council that the IAEA was suspending technical assistance to North Korea because that nation had accelerated nuclear operations at Yongbyon and still refused to comply with IAEA safeguards.

On June 15, 1994, Madeleine Albright, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went to the Security Council with a proposal for sanctions against North Korea. Albright asked for a worldwide embargo on export of arms to North Korea and, contingent on that nation’s reaction, a second phase of sanctions banning all financial dealings with North Korea. North Korea threatened to attack South Korea if such sanctions were imposed. In an attempt to avert war, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, with approval from President Bill Clinton, went to North Korea for talks with Kim Il Sung. On June 17, Carter secured Kim’s agreement to dismantle the North Korean nuclear weapons program if the United States would engage in high-level talks. Kim’s death on July 9, 1994, delayed a formal agreement, but Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong Il, signed an Agreed Statement on August 12, 1994, calling for high-level talks between North Korea and the United States in Geneva, Switzerland.

Between September 23 and October 21, 1994, delegates from the U.S. and North Korean governments reached agreement on the U.S.-North Korea Pact, an Agreed Framework in which North Korea and the United States jointly committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The United States gave formal assurances that it would not use nuclear weapons against North Korea, and North Korea agreed to take consistent steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The two parties further committed their governments to move toward normalizing economic and political relations by removing barriers to trade and investment, opening liaison offices, and eventually upgrading relations to an exchange of ambassadors.

The Agreed Framework of 1994 committed North Korea to freezing operation of its 5-megawatt plutonium processing plant at Yongbyon and to halting construction of its 50-megawatt and 200-megawatt graphite-moderated reactors at Yongbyon and Taechon, respectively. Nuclear energy;reactors All these facilities were to be dismantled prior to completion of two light-water reactor (LWR) power stations to be constructed by the United States in North Korea. Further, North Korea was required to remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to comply fully with IAEA safeguards. This included allowing inspectors access to all nuclear facilities in the country prior to delivery of key nuclear components for the LWRs. The spent fuel rods from the closed 5-megawatt reactor would be stored in containers—a “canning” process—and removed from North Korea after the first LWR arrived. Nuclear waste;disposal The four-year canning process, funded by the United States, began April 27, 1996, with a projected completion date of April 1, 2000.

Under the pact, the United States assumed responsibility for organizing a consortium to finance, construct, and supply two 1,000-megawatt LWR power plants in North Korea. On March 9, 1995, the United States, Japan, and South Korea formed the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to design and construct the LWRs. KEDO was later joined by twelve countries and the European Union, which provided financial assistance and supplies to help implement the Agreed Framework.

To offset North Korea’s loss of electric power in freezing its nuclear reactors, the United States committed to shipments of up to 500,000 tons of heavy oil per year until the first LWR was completed. Deliveries began in January, 1995, with a 50,000-ton shipment from the United States. KEDO assumed responsibility for the oil shipments for the period 1995-1997, at an annual cost of $60 million to $65 million. In mid-1995, when North Korea diverted the oil to the military, KEDO installed meters at the receiving power plants.

KEDO’s plans called for South Korean engineers and construction workers to prepare the site and build the LWRs. KEDO members believed that the interaction of South and North Koreans would further peaceful relations on the peninsula. However, North Korea refused to accept South Korea’s reactor design and supervision of the project. To resolve this issue, the United States and North Korea agreed on June 13, 1995, that the reactor model would be based on the System 80 model of Combustion Engineering, a U.S. firm. In July, 1995, KEDO selected Duke Engineering & Services, Inc., another U.S. firm, as program coordinator.

A supply agreement between KEDO and North Korea on how the $5.178 billion LWR project would be financed and supplied was concluded on December 15, 1995. South Korea and Japan were given responsibility for financing the project. North Korea would have twenty years following completion of the LWRs to repay the total cost. The supply agreement reaffirmed North Korea’s nonproliferation commitments made in the Agreed Framework of 1994. Shipments of fuel oil and construction on the LWRs would cease immediately if North Korea violated any terms of the pact.

Negotiations on protocols continued until September, 1996, when KEDO announced the completion of all basic political agreements needed for construction to begin. Yet another delay was caused by the discovery of a North Korean submarine grounded on South Korea’s coast on September 18, 1996. KEDO could not finalize protocols until North Korea apologized for the incident. The apology came on December 29, 1996, after a series of meetings with the United States, and protocols were signed January 8, 1997. In August, 1997, KEDO finally broke ground on the first LWR project.


In 1998, the basic provisions of the Agreed Framework of 1994 seemed to be holding together. The direct relations established between North and South Korea in negotiating the supply agreement, along with the KEDO-North Korea negotiations to implement the Agreed Framework of 1994, were significant accomplishments. Despite delays caused by North Korea’s military incursions and acts of violence against South Korea, the United States, and Japan, KEDO’s construction of the LWRs was scheduled to begin in late 1998 and be completed within four years.

Troublesome developments delayed further implementation of the U.S.-North Korea Pact, however. With assistance from Iran, North Korea had been expanding its ballistic missile program throughout the 1990’s. It also was producing chemical and biological weapons and had stockpiled large quantities near the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. During meetings with the U.S. envoy, held October 4-6, 2002, North Korea admitted that it had never frozen its nuclear weapons program and had accelerated production, in violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework. North Korea had used the billions of dollars in aid provided by the United States and other nations to expand its production of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and had sold missiles and technology to enemies of the United States. The United States linked North Korea with terrorism and imposed sanctions. On January 20, 2003, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus abrogating the U.S.-North Korea Pact of 1994. U.S.-North Korea Pact (1994)[U.S. North Korea Pact] Agreed Framework of 1994 Nuclear weapons;disarmament Weapons;nuclear

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Albright, David, and Kevin O’Neill, eds. Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle. Washington, D.C.: Institute for Science and International Security, 2000. Collection of commentary on North Korea’s failure to disclose nuclear weapons programs and the potential effects of that failure.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lee, Eric Yong-Joong. “The Geneva Framework and the Optimization of DPRK-U.S. Relationship for Nuclear Security: A Legal and Policy Analysis.” Chinese Journal of International Law 2 (2003): 289-309. Outlines in detail the laws and policies developed to implement the provisions of the U.S.-North Korea Pact.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mazaar, Michael J. North Korea and the Bomb: A Case Study in Nonproliferation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. Provides insights into diplomatic initiatives to stop nuclear proliferation in North Korea and North Korea’s failure to comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sigal, Leon V. Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998. Presents a comprehensive analysis of North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons despite efforts by the United Nations, the United States, and the IAEA to prevent proliferation of such weapons.

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