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Rising Tensions with North Korea: A Timeline

From "fire and fury", to "locked and loaded", and most recently "All options are on the table", the President has had some tough and controversial words for Kim Jong-Un and North Korea after several Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests and now a hydrogen bomb test. Some critics worry that these words have worsened the rising tensions with North Korea; other critics simply worry that Twitter may not be the best outlet to issue these statements. Those who defend him feel that Trump’s words should reflect North Korea’s actions.

While members of Congress have debated the President’s statements, sanctions on North Korea have been strongly supported in both the Capitol and the White House in 2017. Following nuclear tests, the death of Otto Warmbier, and sanctions on North Korea, we’ve seen that tensions between the US and North Korea have only continued to snowball.   

This snowball has been rolling for far longer than 2017, however--while Americans threw literal snowballs celebrating New Year’s Day, Kim Jong-un issued a statement about his nuclear plans--setting the tone for the rest of the year. Skip forward 6 months and several missile tests and we arrive at another holiday--the 4th of July. As Americans launched fireworks in their backyards, North Korea celebrated by testing its first ICBM.

To visualize the series of events that followed, we have compiled a timeline below outlining the rising tensions between the US and North Korea since the launch and the statements made and actions taken as a result.

Names you will see often are Sen. Gardner (R-CO), Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, and Sen. Markey (D-MA), who is also a ranking member of that committee. While countless members of Congress have addressed the issue, we have simplified the list to highlight party leaders and members of relevant committees. Don’t see your senator or representative? Use our keyword search tool here to explore their statements on the issue.

July 4-6: North Korea launches its first ICBM that may be able to reach the US.

"Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!" — @realDonaldTrump July 5, 2017

— July 8: President Trump meets with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and President Xi of China.

"Leaving Hamburg for Washington, D.C. and the WH. Just left China's President Xi where we had an excellent meeting on trade & North Korea." — @realDonaldTrump July 8, 2017

— July 11-22: US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) executes a successful intercept test. House and Senate discuss strengthening efforts against Kim Jong-un and North Korea. House passes the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (see the vote breakdown here).

— July 19-24: Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee discusses further sanctions on North Korea. The Senate & House committees agree on Iran, Russia and North Korea sanctions bill.

— July 27, 2017: The US Senate passes the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (see vote breakdown here). House Foreign Affairs Committee passes several measures.

— July 28: North Korea tests another ICBM that may be able to reach the US.

“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet...they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!” — @realDonaldTrump July 29, 2017

— August 5: The UN Security Council unanimously passes sanctions on North Korea.

“United Nations Resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever on North Korea. Over one billion dollars in cost to N.K.” — @realDonaldTrump August 5, 2017
“Just completed call with President Moon of South Korea. Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions.” — @realDonaldTrump August 6, 2017

— August 8-10: Following a briefing on the Opioid Crisis, President Trump states that if threatened by North Korea, “they will be met with fire and fury.” North Korea considers targeting the US territory of  Guam.

“After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!” — @realDonaldTrump August 8, 2017
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” — @realDonaldTrump August 11, 2017

— August 11-17: Trump answers questions about North Korea following a discussion on Workforce/Apprenticeship. North Korea states that they will hold off on Guam strike.

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!” — @realDonaldTrump August 16, 2017

— August 21-22: Tensions continue to rise. US Treasury Department announces sanctions on Russians and Chinese who support North Korea.

— August 29-30: North Korea fires another missile over Japan.

The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!" — @realDonaldTrump August 30, 2017

— September 3: North Korea tests a Hydrogen bomb.

"North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.......North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success." — @realDonaldTrump September 3, 2017

This is James. He works tirelessly every day collecting hundreds of public statements by officials. From daily tweets from the President, to op-eds published by your representatives, James helps make sure that we can track what politicians are saying so you can hold them to their words. Make a tax deductible contribution so that our researchers can keep bringing you the facts!

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