Ever since President Donald Trump took office in January, tensions with North Korea have escalated rapidly.
The isolated country is barred by United Nations resolutions from carrying out ballistic missile tests or from having a nuclear arms program. Nonetheless, North Korea thumbed its nose at the resolutions — conducting several ballistic missile tests this year alone and five nuclear tests since 2006, including two last year.
The regime fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, a significant step forward in its weapons program. The United States blasted the move, firing warning missiles and vowing to hold Pyongyang accountable at the United Nations.
Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un has made no secret of the fact that his scientists are working on a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching America.
The situation is so fraught that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked China — Pyongyang’s neighbor and powerful ally — to “use their influence to convince or compel North Korea to rethink its strategic calculus.”
But Pyongyang has blithely ignored warnings by Tillerson that military action is “on the table” if they continued to test intercontinental ballistic missiles.
North Korea’s representative at the United Nations, Kim Im Ryong, flat-out warned that the Trump administration’s get-tough strategy was creating “a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”
For his part, Trump has dismissed as failures attempts by his White House predecessors to derail North Korea’s weapons programs.
Here's a timetable of how the recent crisis has unfolded:
Feb. 12: In its first show of defiance against the Trump administration, North Korea successfully launches a solid-fueled ballistic missile called the Pukguksong-2 from a submarine.
March 6: North Korean artillery units fire four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan as part of a simulated attack on U.S. military bases in Japan. Three land within 200 miles of Japan’s coastline and the country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls it “an extremely dangerous action.”
March 14 : The U.S. dispatches high-tech missile defense Aegis warships to the waters where the North Koreans fired the missiles for maneuvers with Japanese and South Korean warships.
March 15: Tillerson arrives in Japan for his first Asia trip as secretary of state.
March 19: The North Koreans test a new rocket engine, claiming its part of their space program.
April 2: Trump declares the U.S. will go it “alone” if China does not help solve the North Korean nuclear problem.
“China will either decide to help us with North Korea of they won’t,” Trump tells the Financial Times. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it’s won’t be good for anyone.”
April 5: The North Koreans test fire a medium-range missile they claim is capable of destroying a U.S. aircraft carrier. It fails.
April 10: The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier, is dispatched to the region in a show of force.
April 15: The North Koreans test fire yet another KN-17 missile. It too fails. In Pyongyang, top official Choe Ryong accuses Trump of “creating a war situation” by dispatching U.S. forces to the region.
“We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of nuclear attack,” Choe threatens.
April 26: With tensions building, the U.S. test fires a $40 million Minuteman III missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. North Korea calls it a provocation.
April 28: The North Koreans test fire another KN-17 missile. Once again, it’s a failure.
May 2: In a telephone conversation, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discuss "how best to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea."
May 14: North Korea launches a ballistic missile that flies around 430 miles before crashing into the Sea of Japan. "With the missile impacting so close to Russian soil — in fact, closer to Russia than to Japan — the President cannot imagine that Russia is pleased," the White House says in a statement.
May 17: Two U.S. defense officials confirm to NBC News that North Korea's launch of a KN-17 missile three days earlier was successful. The re-entry was controlled and the vehicle did not burn up, the officials said. It landed in the sea near Russia.
May 21: North Korea launches a medium-range Pukguksong-2 missile. Kim Jong Un calls the launch "perfect," state run news organ KCNA reports.
May 29: The South Korean military reports that the North Koreans launched what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile that flew for about 6 minutes and about 280 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan. It was reportedly the second time in two days that the North Koreans had test-fired a missile.
May 30: The Pentagon sends a message to North Korea by successfully launching a long-range interceptor missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It hits and destroys an intercontinental-range missile over the Pacific Ocean fired from a test site on Kwajalein Atoll.
June 13: Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergrad, is unexpectedly released after spending more than a year in a North Korean prison. He had been arrested in January 2016 and later convicted of trying to steal a propaganda flag that was flying near his hotel in Pyongyang. He was sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor after a one-hour trial. His father, Fred, credited the Trump administration with his son's release. He said his boy had been "brutalized and terrorized" and suffered extensive brain damage while in North Korean custody.
June 19: Warmbier dies. He is mourned by his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier. “The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” the family says in a statement.
June 29: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announces sanctions targeting a China-based bank accused of laundering money for the North Korean government.
June 30: Trump blasts the regime as "brutal and reckless" during a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Rose Garden. "The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed," Trump says. "Frankly, that patience is over."
July 4: North Korea fires its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The regime declares itself a “proud nuclear state.” The ICBM would have a range of at least 3,500 miles – and be capable of reaching Alaska. In response, the United States and South Korea fire missiles into South Korea’s territorial waters off the east coast — moves that could be seen as a warning message.
July 6: Trump vows to "confront very strongly" the regime's "very, very bad behavior" in test-launching missiles. "I have some pretty severe things that we’re thinking about," he tells reporters in Poland. "Something will have to be done."
July 7: Two U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers fly from Guam to the Korean peninsula where they "practiced attack capabilities by releasing inert weapons at the Pilsung Range" in South Korea. Two U.S. military officials said it was intended to "send a clear message" to North Korea following the ICBM test.