The United States
Since 1945 North Korea's relationship with the United States has been marked by almost continuous confrontation and mistrust. North Korea views the United States as the strongest imperialist force in the world and as the successor to Japanese imperialism. The Korean War only intensified this perception. The United States views North Korea as an international outlaw. The uneasy armistice that halted the intense fighting of the Korean War has occasionally been broken. Perpetuating the mutual distrust was North Korea's 1968 seizure of the United States Navy intelligence-gathering ship Pueblo, the downing of a United States reconnaissance plane in 1969, and the 1976 killing of two American soldiers at the P'anmunjm "Peace Village" in the middle of the DMZ. North Korea's assassination of several United States-educated South Korean cabinet officials in 1983 and the terrorist bombing of a South Korean airliner in 1987 likewise has reinforced United States perceptions of North Korea as unworthy of having diplomatic or economic ties with the United States.
Following South Korea's lead, the United States in 1988 launched its own modest diplomatic initiative. Washington sought to reduce P'yongyang's isolation and to encourage its opening to the outside world. Consequently, the United States government began facilitating cultural, scholarly, journalistic, athletic, and other exchanges with North Korea. After a hesitant start, by the early 1990s almost monthly exchanges were occurring in these areas between the two nations, a halting but significant movement away from total estrangement.
The atmosphere between P'yongyang and Washington warmed significantly in 1991 and 1992. The United States supported the simultaneous admission of both Koreas into the UN in September 1991. That same month, President George Bush announced the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons worldwide. In January 1992, after North Korea had publicly committed itself to the signing of a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA and to permitting IAEA inspections of its primary nuclear facility at Yngbyn, President Bush and South Korean president Roh Tae Woo took the unprecedented step of cancelling their 1992 joint annual military exercise Team Spirit.
In February 1992, United States Department of State Under Secretary for Political Affairs Arnold Kanter met with his North Korean counterpart, Korean Workers' Party Director for International Affairs Kim Yong-sun, in New York. At this meeting, the United States set forth the steps it wanted North Korea to take prior to normalization of relations. North Korea had to facilitate progress in the North-South Korea dialogue; end its export of missile and related technology; renounce terrorism; cooperate with accounting for all Korean War United States military personnel classified as Missing in Action; demonstrate increasing respect for human rights; and conclude a credible and effective North-South nuclear inspection regime designed to complement inspections conducted by the IAEA. Once a credible and effective bilateral North-South Korean inspection regime has been implemented, the United States government will initiate a policy level dialogue with North Korea to formulate specifics for resolving other outstanding United States concerns.
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