Trump and North Korea: A timeline on escalating tensions

Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Sunday issued a stark warning to North Korea following its announcement that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, saying Pyongyang would “be met with a massive military response” if the country continued to threaten the U.S. and its allies.

On Twitter, President Trump said the U.S. was considering imposing sanctions on North Korea’s trade partners.


When asked on Sunday whether the U.S. would attack North Korea, Trump said “we’ll see.”

The crisis on the Korean peninsula is proving to be one of the biggest Trump has faced as president so far.

Here’s a look at how tensions have risen between the new administration and North Korea since President Trump took office. 

January 2, 2017

President-elect Trump declared on Twitter that North Korea would never possess a weapon capable of reaching the continental U.S. after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un claimed on New Year’s Day that the country was in its final stages of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).



January 19, 2017

One day before Trump is sworn into office, U.S. intelligence satellites detect signs of activity at the Chamjin missile factory southwest of Pyongyang, in a sign that the country was preparing two ICBMs for a test launch.

February 11, 2017

Pyongyang launches its first ballistic missile of the Trump presidency, which was personally ordered by Kim, according to CNN.

The North Korean leader is reportedly present for the launch.

Trump discusses the launch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a dinner at his golf course in Mar-a-Lago.

February 14, 2017

Kim’s half brother Kim Jong-Nam is poisoned while walking through Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

March 6, 2017

North Korea launches four missiles into the Sea of Japan, threatening the U.S. ally of in the region.

A fifth ballistic missile failes to launch.

March 14, 2017

The U.S., Japan and South Korea send high tech missile defense ships to the areas where the missiles had landed days earlier.

Pyongyang responds by testing a rocket engine and missile later that month.

April 6, 2017

North Korea fires another ballistic missile off the Korean peninsula days before Trump is set to have a formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump responds in a show of military might, ordering a missile strike on Syria during his meeting with Xi.

April 9, 2017

The Navy announces that its Carl Vinson Strike Group would skip a regularly scheduled visit to Australia and head toward the western Pacific Ocean, a move the White House later says is meant as a deterrent to North Korea’s recent provocations.

However, shortly after the plan is announced, reports emerge that the carrier group is actually heading in the opposite direction of the Korean Peninsula, moving southwest to join the Australian Navy for joint exercises in the Indian Ocean.

In response to the confusion, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says that the strike group will eventually make its way into the Sea of Japan, which it had not yet done.

April 14, 2017

The president continues his show of U.S. military strength when the U.S. drops the most powerful non-nuclear bomb meant to target ISIS in Afghanistan.

Shortly thereafter, Kim touts his own country’s military might during an annual parade in Pyongyang by displaying the country’s new missiles and weapons.

April 20, 2017

The U.N. Security Council calls for Pyongyang to “immediately” halt its aggressive actions in a formal condemnation of the country’s missile launches.

April 29, 2017

The USS Carl Vinson reaches the Sea of Japan. 

May 1, 2017

Trump downplays North Korea’s recent missile launches, and appeared to express admiration for Kim, calling him a “smart cookie” during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Trump continued his praise of the U.S. adversary, saying in an interview he would be “honored” to meet with Kim “under the right circumstances.”

May 14, 2017

North Korea launches the first missile strike since new South Korean President Moon Jae-In took office.

June 2, 2017

The United Nations decides to take action after North Korea’s multiple test launches in May, unanimously voting to introduce additional sanctions that would target the nuclear and missile programs of the increasingly hostile state.

June 8, 2017

The news of additional sanctions does little to deter North Korean aggression in the region, with Pyongyang firing four anti-ship missiles into the sea near the Korean Peninsula just a few days later.

July 4, 2017

As fireworks light up the skies across the nation during the U.S. Independence Day holiday, North Korea launches a very different explosive into the air: its first successful nuclear-capable ICBM test that could “reach anywhere in the world.”

July 8, 2017

Trump presses Chinese President Xi Jinping to step up China’s efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

July 28, 2017

Pyongyang conducts another missile, marking its second test launch in July. Top South Korean military officials say this test is more advanced than the one on July 4, with some experts warning that the missile could be capable of striking the U.S.

August 5, 2017

The U.N. Security Council unanimously passes a resolution that would slap the new sanctions on North Korea in retaliation for its repeated ballistic missile testing and continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

“The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 to sanction North Korea. China and Russia voted with us. Very big financial impact!” Trump tweeted on the day of the decision.

August 7, 2017

Two days after the UN vote, North Korea says it is willing to use nuclear weapons on the U.S. if Washington does anything to aggravate a response, The Wall Street Journal reports.

August 8, 2017

North Korea successfully develops and mounts a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, The Washington Post reports.

News of the nuclear weapon leads both countries to escalate their threats against one another, igniting a new level of concern that dominates an already tense relationship.

Trump responds to the news by warning that he would unleash “fire and fury” if Pyongyang continues with its threats against the U.S.

A North Korean military spokesman also says the state could launch a missile strike against Guam, Reuters reports, citing the country’s state media.

August 28, 2017

North Korea’s latest missile launch over Japan ignites further fear that country aims to spark a conflict.

September 3, 2017

North Korea announces it has successfully tested miniaturized hydrogen bomb capable of fitting on an ICBM.

Mattis warned North Korea to not threaten the U.S. or its allies, or else it would be met with a military response.

Tags James Mattis

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