North Korea has periodically asserted its need for a
nuclear deterrent since the Korean War, when the United States
threatened to use nuclear weapons against it. Although North Korea
joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a
non-nuclear weapon state in 1985, Pyongyang announced its decision to
withdraw from the NPT in 2003, having apparently used membership in the
treaty as a façade while it covertly developed a nuclear weapons
program. Pyongyang's long-standing nuclear weapons efforts culminated in
nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013.
The UN Security Council has issued a series of sanctions against North Korea's nuclear program, including Resolution 1695, Resolution 1718, Resolution 1874, and Resolution 2087. The Six-Party Talks between North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States began in 2003 with the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. However, these talks have been suspended since April 2009. Tensions have continued to rise since North Korea torpedoed the South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, and shelled the island of Yeonpyeong in 2010. North Korea possesses full nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, including a presumed basic capability to enrich uranium, although the functionality of its centrifuges has not yet been substantiated to the outside world. North Korea is building a small light water reactor (LWR) at Yongbyon, which will be fueled by the enriched uranium after it is completed.