North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons and associated delivery platforms remains a top national security and foreign policy challenge for the United States. The most substantive aspects of the North Korean nuclear program began in the mid-1980s and has been a major foreign policy concern for the U.S. since the 1990s. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is often viewed through the lens of larger North Korean strategic objectives, be they regime survival or reunification of the Korean Peninsula. While these are unquestionably significant, a more comprehensive understanding of North Korea’s motivation for its pursuit of nuclear weapons requires examination of the strategic and ideological foundations of the DPRK’s nuclear ambitions that were set down decades before the emergence of the current program. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons today was heavily influenced by practical experience and ideological development that took place in the DPRK during the 1950s and 1960s.