North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in 2020 in violation of international sanctions and helped fund them with about $ 300 million stolen through cyber-hacking, according to a confidential UN report seen by Reuters on Monday.
The report from independent sanction monitors said Pyongyang “produced fissile material, maintained nuclear power plants and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure” while continuing to seek materials and technology for these programs from abroad.
The annual report to the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee in North Korea comes just weeks after US President Joe Biden took office.
A State Department spokesman said Monday that the administration was planning a new approach to North Korea, including a full review with allies “on ongoing pressure options and the potential for future diplomacy.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump met three times in 2018 and 2019, but failed to make progress on US demands for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands to end sanctions.
Over the past year, North Korea has demonstrated new short-range, medium-sized, submarine-launched and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at military parades, the UN report said.
The UN report said an unnamed member state had estimated that, given the size of North Korea’s missiles, “it is very likely that a nuclear device” could be mounted on long-range, medium- and short-range ballistic missiles.
“However, the Member State stated that it was uncertain whether North Korea had developed ballistic missiles resistant to the heat generated during re-entry,” the atmosphere said in the report. North Korea’s formal name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
While there were no nuclear or ballistic missile tests by 2020, Pyongyang announced “preparations for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and tactical nuclear weapons development.”
North Korea’s UN mission in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
North Korea, Iran, missiles
North Korea blew up tunnels at its main nuclear test, Punggye-ri, in 2018, saying it was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing. However, an unidentified member said that UN monitors were still on the scene and showed that it had not been abandoned.
According to an unidentified country, North Korea and Iran have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects, including the transfer of critical parts, the monitors said. The latest delivery was last year, they said.
In a letter in December to the UN sanctions watchdog, attached to the report, Iranian UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said a preliminary review of the information it provided to it showed that “false information and fabricated data” may have been used in their investigation.
North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006. It has been strengthened by the 15-member Security Council over the years in an effort to abolish funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
UN monitors estimated that 2020 hackers in North Korea “continued to conduct operations against financial institutions and virtual currency houses to generate revenue” to support its nuclear and missile programs.
“According to one Member State, North Korea’s total theft of virtual assets, from 2019 to November 2020, is valued at approximately $ 316.4 million,” the report said.
In 2019, sanctions watchdogs reported that North Korea earned at least $ 370 million by exporting coal, which is banned under UN sanctions. But last year, they said coal transport seemed to have been temporarily suspended since July 2020.
The isolated Asian nation imposed a strict lockdown last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has cut trade and damaged an economy already burdened by international sanctions.