UN experts: North Korea seeks to produce materials for nuclear weapons
North Korea has continued to expand its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including its ability to produce nuclear fissile material in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, UN experts said in a new report. report.
The panel said in the summary of the report obtained Saturday night by The Associated Press that there had been a marked acceleration in Pyongyang’s testing and demonstration of new short-range and possibly medium-range missiles until in January, incorporating both ballistic and guidance technologies. and using both solid and liquid propellants.
New technologies being tested included a possible hypersonic guidance warhead and a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, the panel said. North Korea has also demonstrated increased rapid deployment capabilities, high mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces.
Experts said North Korea continues to seek equipment, technology and know-how for such programs overseas, including through computer facilities and joint scientific research.
A year ago, the panel said North Korea had modernized its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by flouting United Nations sanctions, using cyberattacks to help fund its programs and continuing to seek materiel. and technology overseas for its arsenal, including in Iran.
Cyberattacks, especially on cryptocurrency assets, remain an important source of revenue for Kim Jong Un’s government, experts monitoring the implementation of sanctions against the North said in the new report.
In recent months, North Korea has launched a variety of weapon systems and threatened to lift the four-year moratorium on testing more serious weapons such as nuclear explosions and ICBM launches. January saw a record nine missile launches, and other weapons recently tested include a developmental hypersonic missile and a submarine-launched missile.
The Security Council initially imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and tightened them in response to new nuclear tests and the country’s increasingly sophisticated nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The panel said North Korea’s blockade aimed at preventing COVID-19 has resulted in historically low levels of people and goods moving in and out of the country. Legal and illegal trade, including that of luxury goods, has largely ceased although cross-border rail traffic resumed in early January, he said.
The panel has previously made clear that North Korea remains able to evade sanctions and illegally import refined oil, access international banking channels and conduct malicious cyber activities.
UN sanctions ban North Korean coal exports and experts said in the new report that although coal exports by sea increased in the second half of 2021, they were still at relatively low levels.
The amount of illicit imports of refined oil rose sharply over the same period, but at a much lower level than in previous years, the panel said, adding that direct shipments by non-North Korean tankers had ceased. and that only northern tankers delivered oil. , a marked change in methodology likely in response to COVID-19 measures.
Experts said North Korea also continues to evade maritime sanctions through deliberately obfuscated financial and property networks.
As the humanitarian situation in the country continues to worsen, the panel said the near total lack of information from the country makes it difficult to determine the unintended humanitarian consequences of UN sanctions affecting the civilian population.
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