North Korea prepares for atomic tests and dodges sanctions to get weapons

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A new draft UN report reveals that North Korea has expanded its weapons testing facilities, indicating that the hermit kingdom may intend to start testing nuclear weapons in the near future.

The report was obtained by Japanese news site Nikkei and presents findings indicating that North Korea has begun to dig new tunnels at Punggye-ri test site, which could allow the government to carry out “additional nuclear tests for the development of nuclear weapons”.

The report covers the first half of 2022 and also details the means by which North Korea has managed to dodge the sanctions and continue to fund its operations. The UN Security Council’s North Korea Sanctions Committee will discuss the findings before releasing the report.

The committee may choose to take additional action – including additional sanctions – based on the findings of the report.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the United Nations General Assembly at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on Monday and said that Pyongyang is “preparing to carry out its seventh nuclear”.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to expand its illegal nuclear program and continues its ongoing provocations against the region,” he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a convocation of the expanded Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2022.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a convocation of the expanded Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2022.
(KCNA via Reuters)

Pyongyang responded with a statement on Wednesday in which it called Blinken’s comments “a clamor of anti-DPRK confrontation”.

“Long ago, the DPRK withdrew from the NPT through the legitimate procedure under the relevant article stipulated in the NPT,” officials wrote. “As a result, no one has the right or justification to accuse the DPRK, a nuclear-weapon state outside the NPT, of exercising its right to self-defense.”

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North Korea has accused the United States of trying to undermine “the foundation of the non-proliferation regimeand by remaining “determined to confront nuclear threats and blackmail against sovereign states”.

“The United States itself would not deny the fact that it transferred technology for a nuclear-powered submarine to Australia and colluded and favored the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel” , continues the press release. “It is the height of occupied blame that the United States alleges ‘nuclear threats’ from someone given that it is the kingpin of nuclear proliferation that has historically and consistently violated its obligations under the treaty one article after article and disrupted international peace and regional security.”

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North Korea and South Korea have claimed that Pyongyang can carry out a nuclear test “at any time”, but the hermit kingdom continues to face obstacles – foremost among which is a new outbreak of COVID-19 that began in May.

Although satellite images of the northern Punggye-ri nuclear site indicate that Pyongyang has been steadily restoring the nuclear site’s Tunnel 3, no remarks or public reports on the nuclear test have been made.

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The sixth and currently last nuclear test conducted by North Korea took place in 2017. The hydrogen bomb test triggered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, and North Korea claimed that the trial was a “perfect success”.

The UN Security Council is expected to meet on the sanctions report in a closed session later this month.