It has been almost five years since North Korea's last nuclear test. Is ruler Kim Jong Un preparing a new one? According to the United Nations, the evidence is growing. Pyongyang apparently also stole the necessary money with hacker attacks.
North Korea is preparing for its first nuclear test since 2017, according to the United Nations. Recently, construction work was observed at an underground test facility in the north of the country: "The work at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site paves the way for further nuclear tests for the development of nuclear weapons," according to a previously confidential UN expert report. Satellite images indicated that North Korea was repairing its tunnel network in Punggye-ri and rebuilding buildings on the site that were demolished in 2018 as part of negotiations with the United States. Fissile material production capacity at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility has also been ramped up, according to the UN report covering the past few months.
For months, observers have feared that after numerous missile tests, ruler Kim Jong Un's first nuclear test in almost five years could be imminent. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had already referred to activities in Punggye-ri in June. North Korea conducted six test explosions there between 2006 and 2017.
The country does not allow international on-site inspections. According to the UN, North Korea has already fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, including several ICBMs, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In view of North Korea's nuclear program, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday that the world was in a "time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War." Mankind is in danger of forgetting the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, from nuclear annihilation."
According to the UN experts, North Korea is still financing its nuclear program with hacker attacks in which computer specialists smuggle money to Pyongyang by stealing data. They would have stolen "hundreds of millions of dollars" in cryptocurrencies. Contrary to the UN sanctions against the autocracy, the country also exports coal.
With the missile tests and his nuclear program, Kim Jong Un wants to increase the pressure on the world community to lift the sanctions. At the same time, diplomacy with the United States has been on hold since Kim's failed second summit with former US President Donald Trump in February 2019. North Korea then made it clear several times that it was not interested in new talks as long as Washington made no new proposals. In May, the United States failed in the UN Security Council with a resolution for stricter international sanctions against Pyongyang. Russia and China vetoed the vote in New York.