U.N. reports that North Korea is funding its nuclear program using cyberattack revenues

A confidential U.N. document states that North Korea’s cyberattacks on “particularly cryptocurrency assets” are an important source of revenue for Kim Jong Un.

The new report, submitted to the U.N. sanctions committee and obtained in part by CBS News, is an annual accounting by independent monitors known as the “1718” Committee — named for the U.N. resolution that has imposed biting sanctions on North Korea since 2006. The report relies on its own often on-site investigations as well as open-sourced information and intelligence from member states of the United Nations

In past reports, the U.N. expert panel has described “elaborate subterfuge” that the government of North Korea uses to evade U.N. sanctions and earn billions of dollars. CBS News saw an excerpt from this year’s report. It stated that sophisticated maritime sanctions evasion was continuing, which was facilitated by intentionally obfuscated ownership and financial networks.

The panel’s 2021 report also detailed malicious cyberattacks. The new report claims that North Korea continues to search for material, technology, and know-how through cyber means. “

According to Reuters, other excerpts from this year’s U.N. document highlight evidence from a U.N. member that shows North Korea “cyberactors” between 2020 and mid-2021 stole more than $50 million from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges. The panel cites a report from a cybersecurity firm that said North Korean attacks on cryptocurrency platforms earned the hermit state almost $400 million in digital assets.

An excerpt from the report obtained by CBS News noted that “there was a marked acceleration of the testing and demonstration of new short- and possibly medium-range missiles incorporating both ballistic and guidance technologies and using both solid and liquid propellants, which continues as of the end of January 2022.” In violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea “continued” to develop and maintain its ballistic and nuclear missile programs.

The North Korean nuclear advances report comes as tensions between members of the Security Council are high.

In response to the flurry of missile tests this year, the Biden administration in mid-January imposed sanctions on five North Korea officials. In response to the flurry of missile launches this year, the Biden administration imposed sanctionson five North Korean officials. Russia tried unsuccessfully to stop the closed meeting in a procedural vote.

At the Friday meeting, China and Russia would not sign onto a statement condemning the proliferation of North Korea’s missile launches, but nine council members, including the U.S., issued a statement that called the recent launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) a “significant escalation” and condemned the “unlawful action in the strongest terms.”

Divisions within the council on what to do next were evident in the acrimonious statements by diplomats following the closed meeting.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield stated that the United States had made it clear they are open to meeting with North Koreans. However, before we can make a commitment to our President, we must have a better understanding of what is possible. “

China Ambassador Zhang Jun stated that the U.S. must show “more sincerity” and be more flexible. The most recent report stated that humanitarian conditions continue to get worse. It contains 30 recommendations, some of which may be revised before the final report is issued.

Pamela Falk


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Pamela Falk, CBS News’ Foreign Affairs Analyst is based in the United Nations. She also works as an international lawyer.

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