According to a classified U.N. investigation, North Korea's cyberattacks, notably on cryptocurrency investments, remain a critical source of income for Kim Jong Un's government.
The recent report, which has been forwarded to the United Nations sanctions committee, 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 findings are based often on on-site investigations, along with open-sourced records and insight from United Nations member states.
In past reports, the U.N. expert panel has described the government of North Korea's "elaborate subterfuge" to avoid U.N. sanctions while raking in billions of dollars. According to an excerpt from this year's report, a refined sea travel restrictions evasion has continued, aided by deliberately obscured financial and ownership connections.
Malicious cyberattacks were also covered in the panel's 2021 report. The new report, however, appears to go even further, implying that North Korea "continued to seek material, technology and know-how" through "cyber means and joint scientific research."
Other transcripts from this year's U.N. report, according to Reuters, emphasize conclusive proof from a U.N. member demonstrating that North Korean "cyberactors" stole more than $50 million from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges between 2020 and mid-2021. Including in the panel, North Korean cyberattack on cryptocurrency platforms netted the recluse state nearly $400 million in cryptoassets, according to a report from a cybersecurity firm.
According to a report excerpt acquired by CBS News, "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." North Korea also "continued to maintain and develop its nuclear and ballistic missile" programs that are in contravention of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The investigation on North Korea's nuclear advances occurred at a time when tensions rise between Security Council members.
In response to this year's barrage of missile tests, the Biden administration sanctioned five North Korean officials in mid-January. At the time, the administration also stated that it would seek additional sanctions from the United Nations. Following additional launches, the United States requested a closed council meeting, which Russia vainly attempted to obstruct through a procedural vote.
China and Russia refused to sign a statement castigating North Korea's missile launches at the meeting on Friday. However, nine members of the council, including the U.S., released a statement calling the recent launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) a "significant escalation" and condemning the "unlawful action in the strongest terms."
The contentious remarks made by diplomats succeeding the closed meeting revealed divisions within council over how to go about it.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, "The United States has made clear that we are willing to meet with the North Koreans without preconditions, but before we can commit our President to meeting, we need to have a better sense of what there is to achieve."
China's Ambassador Zhang Jun said that the U.S. needs "to show more sincerity and flexibility."
Based on the most latest report, the humanitarian crisis has worsened. It includes 30 recommendations, some of which may be modified before the final report is released.