A confidential United Nations report says North Korea has used cyberattacks to steal hundreds of millions of dollars to fund its nuclear program and ballistic missile capabilities, in violation of international law.
The report, which was leaked to the media Tuesday, says North Korea managed to bolster both its nuclear and missile programs in 2020 despite being subject to numerous international sanctions.
One unnamed U.N. member state quoted in the report said North Korea financed the military expansion with over $300 million stolen through cyber hacks and online fraud.
The report highlights new ballistic missiles that have been on display in recent military parades, which the report says could be large enough to carry nuclear warheads and could potentially put the entire United States within range.
Pyongyang boasted in January of developing what it claimed to be “the world’s most powerful weapon” — a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The weapon has yet to be tested, and its capabilities remain unknown.
The display of military strength is partly a response to the change of administration in Washington, said Sojin Lim, a Korea analyst at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire.
“The nuclear program is the only survival strategy for North Korea, especially for Kim’s family (and) the regime’s survival,” Lim told VOA. “Recently, because of the COVID-19 situation, their economic situation has become even worse. And especially with the new administration in the (United) States, the new President (Joe) Biden, North Korea has no other way to discuss or negotiate with America.”
The report was written by independent monitors for the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee and leaked to the media Tuesday.
North Korea is subject to a range of multilateral and unilateral sanctions from the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, among others. The measures have not worked, argued Lim.
“Sanctions give more hardship for civilians, but its own aims or purpose, which is the change in policy of the country, has not been working in that way,” she said. “And North Korea has been successful in finding new ways to mobilize finance, and these cyberattacks with this amount of money makes me even more convinced that the sanctions do not work. And we really need to find a new frame(work) to approach North Korea now.”
In the past decade, North Korea has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests of escalating size.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and 2019, but the negotiations failed to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
The new administration under Biden is working on a new approach, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters February 4.
“President Biden told (South Korean) President Moon (Jae-in) that that review is under way, and that we will consult closely with our allies, particularly the ROK (Republic of Korea) and Japan in doing that.”
Despite the U.S. pledge of a new approach to Pyongyang, most experts see little hope of imminent progress toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.