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North Korean Hackers Stole $316 million to Fund Nuclear Weapons Program

North Korean hackers stole more than $300 million to prop up the country’s flailing economy and fund leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions last year, according to a draft United Nations report obtained by the Associated Press and CNN. 

North Korean Hackers Stole $316 million to Fund Nuclear Weapons Program
North Korean Hackers Stole $316 million to Fund Nuclear Weapons Program

A panel of North Korea experts compiled the report and recommended further sanctions against the country for violating international law in its quest to become a nuclear power, CNN reported.

The document accused the regime of leader Kim Jong Un of conducting “operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses” to pay for weapons and keep North Korea’s struggling economy afloat. One unnamed country that is a member of the UN claimed the hackers stole virtual assets worth $316.4 million dollars between 2019 and November 2020, according to the document.

The report said that North Korea “produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities, and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure” while continuing “to seek material and technology for these programs from overseas,” according to CNN. 

The experts said it’s “highly likely” North Korea can at this point mount a nuclear device to a ballistic missile of any range, but it’s still uncertain whether those missiles would be able to successfully reenter the atmosphere, the report says, according to CNN. 

Kim Jong Un believes that acquiring more nuclear power will stave off international intervention in his country, where more than 40% of the population is malnourished and citizens are regularly sent to forced labor camps as punishment for petty infractions. 

North Korea has for years sought to develop powerful nuclear weapons and advanced missiles to pair them with, despite their immense cost and the fact that such a pursuit has turned the country into an international pariah barred by the UN from conducting almost any economic activity with other countries.

It’s unclear when this report will be released. Previous leaks have infuriated China and Russia, both members of the UN Security Council, leading to diplomatic standoffs and delays.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, but the claims in the report are in line with recent plans laid out by Kim. At an important political meeting last month, Kim said that North Korea would work to develop new, advanced weapons for its nuclear and missile programs, like tactical nuclear weapons and advanced warheads designed to penetrate missile defense systems to deter the United States, despite the rapport he developed with former US President Donald Trump.

The report was authored by the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea, the body charged with monitoring the enforcement and efficacy of sanctions levied against the Kim regime as punishment for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development.

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