North Korea developed nuclear weapons throughout 2020: UN report

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North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $300 million stolen through cyber hacks, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Monday.

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 programmes from abroad.

The annual report to the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee comes just weeks after US President Joe Biden took office. A State Department spokesperson said on Monday the administration planned a new approach to North Korea, including a full review with allies "on ongoing pressure options and the potential for any 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 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 displayed new short-range, medium-range, submarine-launched and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at military parades, the UN report said. It also  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 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. North Korea's formal name is Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

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

North Korea's UN mission in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. North Korea has been subjected to UN sanctions since 2006. They have been strengthened by the 15-member Security Council over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

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