North Korea is pressing on with its nuclear weapons programme, and several countries believe it has “probably developed miniaturised nuclear devices to fit into the warheads of its ballistic missiles,” according to a confidential UN report.
The report by an independent panel of experts monitoring UN sanctions said the countries, which it did not identify, believed North Korea’s past six nuclear tests had likely helped it develop miniaturised nuclear devices.
Pyongyang has not conducted a nuclear test since September 2017.
The interim report, seen by Reuters, was submitted to the 15-member UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee on Monday.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing its nuclear programme, including the production of highly enriched uranium and construction of an experimental light water reactor. A Member State assessed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing production of nuclear weapons,” the report said.
North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Its mission to the UN in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the UN report.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last week there would be no more war as the country’s nuclear weapons guarantee its safety and future despite unabated outside pressure and military threats.
The UN report said one country, which it did not identify, assessed that North Korea “may seek to further develop miniaturisation in order to allow incorporation of technological improvements such as penetration aid packages or, potentially, to develop multiple-warhead systems.”
The UN experts said North Korea is violating sanctions – imposed on it since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes – including “through illicit maritime exports of coal, though it suspended these temporarily between late January and early March 2020” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a bid to cut off funding for those programmes, the Security Council has steadily strengthened its sanctions.
Last year, UN experts said North Korea had generated an estimated $2bn using widespread and sophisticated cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
“The Panel continues to assess that virtual asset service providers and virtual assets will continue to remain lucrative targets for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to generate revenue, as well as mining cryptocurrencies,” the latest report said.