In excerpts obtained on Thursday, experts said North Korea was paving the way for additional nuclear testing with new preparations at its northeastern test site and continuing to develop its capacity to produce a key ingredient for nuclear weapons.
In the new excerpt, the panel said: “At the beginning of June, two Member States considered that the preparation for nuclear tests was at a final stage.”
On other issues, the panel said in excerpts from Thursday that North Korea had carried out two major hacks this year, resulting in the theft of cryptocurrency assets worth “hundreds of millions of dollars.” . Pyongyang also continues to illegally import oil and export coal in violation of UN sanctions, using the same companies, networks and vessels, he added.
South Korean and US intelligence officials said they detected North Korean efforts to prepare its northeastern proving ground of Punggye-ri for another nuclear test. It would be the North’s seventh since 2006 and the first since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear bomb to fit its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The report of the group of experts to the UN Security Council provides some details on the work carried out on the site by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the country.
Experts said they observed that the DPRK started re-excavation work in March at the entrance to Tunnel 3 at Punggye-ri “and reconstructed support buildings initially dismantled in May 2018”.
“Satellite imagery showed an increase in the number of vehicle tracks around this secondary entrance beginning in mid-February 2022, followed by the construction of a new building adjacent to the entrance in early March,” the panel said. . “A pile of wood, which could be used in the construction of the tunnel structure, was also detected around the same time.”
He added that “piles of soil from the excavation of the tunnel around the entrance were observed during this period”.
“The work at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site paves the way for further nuclear testing for the development of nuclear weapons,” the experts said, adding that it was a stated goal during the Eighth Congress of Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. January 2021.
Robert Floyd, head of the UN’s nuclear test ban treaty organization, told a UN news conference on Friday that his monitoring facilities had detected the DPRK’s previous six nuclear tests. . “If there is a seventh time, I am very confident that our system will detect it, we will characterize it, and that information will then be shared with states around the world,” he said.
Floyd is attending the high-level conference on the historic nuclear non-proliferation treaty which began Monday and ends August 26. Under the provisions of the NPT, the five original nuclear powers – the United States, China, Russia (then the Soviet Union), Great Britain and France agreed to negotiate one day the elimination of their arsenals and the nations without nuclear weapons have promised not to acquire them in exchange for a guarantee to be able to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Floyd raised the question of whether the possibility of a seventh nuclear test by the DPRK will strengthen or weaken non-proliferation and disarmament agreements, “and the appetite of states to see these things happen.”
“I wonder how much of that actually feeds into the tone that we heard this week at the review conference, where there were quite a few accommodations for various positions,” he said.
“I wonder if states recognize at a time like this that it’s really important to be able to strengthen the NPT and come together around some of these very important issues, rather than, ‘Oh, that’s a reason why we should give up such an important thing as the cornerstone of nuclear architecture,” Floyd said.
In another aspect of the DPRK’s nuclear program, analysts said satellite images from last September showed North Korea expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, a sign it wants increase the production of the key bomb material.
UN experts said in the new report, “The DPRK has continued to develop its nuclear fissile material production capacity at the Yongbyon site.”
Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since 2019 due to disagreements over the DPRK’s request to lift crippling US-led sanctions and Washington’s demand for significant peacebuilding measures. Pyongyang towards nuclear disarmament.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expanded his ballistic missile program amid the diplomatic pause, and analysts say another nuclear test would worsen his precarious situation aimed at cementing the North’s status as a nuclear power and negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.
The panel said the DPRK continued to ramp up its missile programs, launching 31 missiles “combining ballistic and guidance technologies”, including six ICBMs and two “explicitly described as ballistic weapons”. He added that the DPRK also claims to have made progress in developing “tactical nuclear weapons”.