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4 things you need to know about North Korea's missile program

Early Monday morning on the Korean peninsula, Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean military launched four ballistic missiles into the sea, with some landing in Japanese-operated areas.


Related: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

The North's missile program goes back decades, and includes secessions by the country, and then blatant ramp-ups of nuclear proliferation.

A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr.

1. They signed a NPT under President Clinton

In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a non-proliferation treaty, aiming, among other things, to normalize political and social relations between the two companies, and requiring the North to convert their graphite-moderated 5MWe nuclear reactor and two others under construction into light water reactors within 10 years.

Under the agreement, the U.S. was to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year, until the first of the light water reactors could be built.

Also read: 4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

The agreement broke down in 2003, ending with North Korea withdrawing from the NPT. Officials in both countries widely speculated the U.S. only entered into the agreement because they assumed, after the death of Kim Il-sung 1994, the North Korean government would collapse.

2. They use the offer of drawing down as a bribe

Beginning with the NPT agreement in 1994, and as recently as 2012, North Korea has dangled the idea of backing down from their effort to create nuclear weapons in exchange for aid—food, money and energy being the top requests.

In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan.

3. Their missile tests often happen around the same time each year

During the spring, South Korean and U.S. military troops conduct joint drills on the Korean peninsula, something the North Koreans have always found to be threatening. Officials in the North have said the drills are an obvious threat, and practice for eventual invasion of the country. It is often during these annual drills in South Korea that the North makes grand statements about their capabilities, or launches some sort of missile as a show of force.

4. They have become more aggressive under Kim Jong-un

After the death of the former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the country became more aggressive with missile launches and nuclear expansion. Jong-il's son, Kim Jong-un, assumed power as supreme leader of North Korea in late 2011, and since then, the country has forged ahead with nuclear warhead developments, has launched more missiles and is less responsive to negotiation tactics than past leaders.