Defense Politics

North Korea further developed nuclear, missile programs in 2020: UN report

North Korea further maintained and developed its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions. It is believed that some $300 million funds have been stolen through cyber hacks by North Korea and used in weapons development programs. According to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters. 

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The report by independent sanctions monitors said Pyongyang “produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure” while continuing to seek material and technology for those programs from abroad. 

The US State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration planned a new approach to North Korea (formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) including a full review with allies “on ongoing pressure options and the potential for any future diplomacy.” 

The annual report about North Korea’s weapons development programs to the Security Council’s sanctions committee comes just weeks after US President Joe Biden took office. 

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The former US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met three times in 2018 and 2019 but failed to make any progress on the US calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions. 

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Last year, North Korea displayed new short-range, medium-range, submarine-launched, and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at military parades, according to the UN report. Last month DPRK unveiled what it called ‘the world’s most powerful weapon’ at a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 8th ruling party congress. 

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The United Nation report said an unnamed member state has assessed that judging by the size of North Korea’s missiles, “it is highly likely that a nuclear device” could be mounted on to long-range, medium-range, and short-range ballistic missiles. 

“The Member State, however, stated it is uncertain whether the DPRK had developed ballistic missiles resistant to the heat generated during re-entry,” into the atmosphere, the report said. 

While there were no nuclear or ballistic missile tests in 2020, Pyongyang “announced preparation for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and development of tactical nuclear weapons.”

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North Korea’s UN mission in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. 

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North Korea’s weapons programs:

North Korea has active and increasingly sophisticated ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons programs. It is also believed to possess chemical and biological weapons capabilities. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)

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North Korea Unilaterally with-drew from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in January 2003. It is also not a member of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and has conducted six increasingly sophisticated nuclear tests since 2006. North Korea also believed to possess a large chemical weapons and offensive biological weapons program, because it is also not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) report. 

North Korea, Iran Missiles:

North Korea blew up tunnels as its main nuclear test site, Punggye-ri, in 2018 saying it was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing. However, there was still personnel at the site, showing it had not been abandoned. 

According to an unidentified country, Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects. 

The Iranian government has rejected the allegations. In a letter to the UN in December by Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht said a preliminary review of the information given to it by the monitors indicated that “false information and fabricated data” may have been used in their investigation. 

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North Korea has been subjected to UN sanctions since 2006. The sanctions have been strengthened over the years by the 15 member Security Council in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. 

Analysis:

North Korea has the most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, according to the UN reports and other data available. 

It is a concerning point for the US, that how it mitigates the North Korean threat and stops them from developing further offensive weapons.

Sources:

  1. Article published in Reuters
  2. Article published in Aljazeera
  3. Report published by Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)