North Korea's nuclear ambition has been well-known. Now, experts who are monitoring the United Nations (UN) sanctions believe the Kim Jong Un-governed country has "probably developed miniaturized nuclear devices to fit into the warheads of its ballistic missiles."

North Korea hasn't conducted a nuclear test since September 2017. But the report said that the country's past six tests led it to achieve the feat. The report by the independent panel of experts also added that North Korea, despite saying otherwise, had continued its nuclear program.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is continuing its nuclear program, including the production of highly enriched uranium and construction of an experimental light water reactor. A member state assessed that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is continuing production of nuclear weapons," said the interim report which was submitted to the 15-member UN Security council's North Korea sanctions on Monday, August 3. The report was seen by Reuters.

Ballistic missile
North Korea has ballistic missiles capable of targeting U.S. Wikimedia Commons

As per the report, a member country had suggested that North Korea might continue the development of miniaturized nuclear devices "to allow incorporation of technological improvements such as penetration aid packages or, potentially, to develop multiple warhead systems". However, the confidential report didn't identify the country.

'War Deterrent'

This isn't the first time that experts have warned about North Korea's nuclear capability and continued ambitions. The U.S. intelligence assessment in 2017 also indicated that Pyongyang had already developed the ability to produce warheads that could fit into intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach targets as far as the U.S. mainland.

Last year, Japan also warned of similar threats. In its 2019 defense white paper, it said that North Korea's nuclear capabilities posed a "real and imminent threat".

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has spoken about war deterrent that would guarantee national security Twitter

In January this year, Kim Jong Un also indicated that the country would resume nuclear tests. Last week, North Korea's supreme leader also said that the country possessed a "war deterrent" that would guarantee national security.

"Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense war deterrence, there will no longer be a war on this land and our national security and future will be firmly guaranteed permanently," he said as per state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

No Impact of Sanctions

North Korea had apparently ceased its nuclear ambition following the 2018 Pyongyang Joint Declaration with South and summit with the U.S. in Singapore the same year. In the presence of media, the North's army demolished the nuclear test tunnels in Punggye-ri. But as per the report, with no UN inspection, there was no indication that the country demolished all of its nuclear arsenals.

Instead, various independent reports based on satellite imagery suggested that North Korea continued to build a comprehensive nuclear arsenal and a secret naval base. Thus, the UN economic sanctions, which was first introduced in 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile program, continued to cripple its economy. However, despite the mounting sanctions, North Korea hasn't stopped developing a nuclear arsenal.

Cyber Crime
North Korea has allegedly made around $2 billion from cyber attacks on banks and cryptocurrency exchanges (representational image)

The UN experts believe that North Korea is still violating the sanctions through illicit maritime exports of coal but "it was suspended temporarily between January and early March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic".

Apart from that, the country has developed illegal means to extort money including cyberattacks. Last year, UN experts said that North Korea had generated around $2 billion through cyberattacks that targeted banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

"The Panel continues to assess that virtual asset service providers and virtual assets will continue to remain lucrative targets for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to generate revenue, as well as mining cryptocurrencies," said the latest UN report.