North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund its activities with some $300m stolen through cyber-hacks, according to a United Nations report.
The report by independent sanctions’ monitors, which was obtained by both Reuters news agency and AFP, said Pyongyang “produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure” while continuing to seek material and technology for those programmes from abroad.
A US State Department spokesperson said on Monday the administration of President Joe Biden, who took office last month, planned a new approach to North Korea, including a full review with allies “on ongoing pressure options and the potential for any future diplomacy.”
His predecessor Donald Trump had boasted of his ability to work with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the two men met three times in 2018 and 2019. Their summitry failed to achieve a breakthrough, however, as talks collapsed over US calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.
In the past year, North Korea has displayed new short-range, medium-range, submarine-launched and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at military parades, the UN report noted. Last month, it unveiled what it said was ‘the world’s most powerful weapon‘ at a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 8th ruling party congress.
The report said an unnamed member state had assessed that, judging by the size of North Korea’s missiles, “it is highly likely that a nuclear device” could be mounted onto long-range, medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles.