UN Accuses North Korea Of $3B Crypto Theft To Fund Nuclear Weapons Program

In a recently reviewed unpublished report by Reuters, United Nations (UN) sanctions monitors have alleged that North Korea engaged in a massive theft of crypto assets, raking in $3 billion through cyberattacks.

Nuclear Upgrades And Crypto Cyberattacks Unveiled
According to Reuters, the independent panel of sanctions monitors revealed that despite international sanctions, North Korea continued to defy regulations by enhancing its nuclear arsenal and producing nuclear fissile materials.

The monitors further noted that the country conducted ballistic missile launches, deployed a “tactical nuclear attack submarine,” and even placed a satellite into orbit.

The UN report points to 58 suspected cyberattacks on crypto-related companies between 2017 and 2023, valued at approximately $3 billion. These attacks allegedly provided crucial funding for North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) development.

The report states that hacking groups affiliated with the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary foreign intelligence agency, were responsible for these cyber assaults.

The monitors highlighted the increasing trend of North Korea targeting defense companies and supply chains and collaborating with other actors by sharing infrastructure and tools. The report also raises concerns about reports of North Korea supplying conventional arms and munitions, which contravenes existing sanctions.

While the UN report is set to be released publicly later this month or early next, North Korea’s mission to the United Nations has not yet responded to requests for comment on the sanctions monitors’ allegations.

The Security Council, traditionally deadlocked on the issue, is unlikely to take immediate action against North Korea, according to Reuters.

China and Russia have advocated for easing the sanctions to “persuade” North Korea to return to denuclearization talks. Furthermore, Russia and North Korea have recently pledged to strengthen military relations, although both countries deny allegations of weapons supply.

North Korea’s Illicit Trade
Per the report, North Korea has slowly begun to emerge despite the lockdown imposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN report reveals signs of trade recovery, with a higher trade volume in 2023 compared to 2022.

Notably, the United Nations monitors noted the reappearance of foreign consumer goods, including potential luxury items prohibited under Security Council sanctions.

The sanctions monitors also investigated reports of numerous North Korean nationals working overseas violating sanctions, particularly in information technology, restaurants, and construction sectors. These individuals were found to earn income that benefited the North Korean government.

In addition, the report highlights North Korea’s continued access to the international financial system and engagement in illicit financial activities, including crypto assets, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

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