UNITED NATIONS — UN experts say they are investigating 58 suspected North Korean cyberattacks between 2017 and 2023 valued at approximately $3 billion, with the money reportedly being used to help fund its development of weapons of mass destruction.
And the high volume of cyberattacks by North Korean hacking groups who report to the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary foreign intelligence organization, is reportedly continuing, the panel of experts said in the executive summary of a new report to the UN Security Council obtained Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, by The Associated Press.
The report covering the period from July 2023 to January 2024 and reflecting contributions from unidentified UN member nations and other sources, was sent to the 15-member council as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has raised tensions in the region. He is threatening to annihilate South Korea if provoked and escalating weapons demonstrations. In response, the United States, South Korea and Japan have strengthened their combined military exercises.
Amid the increased military and political tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the experts said North Korea “continued to flout (UN) sanctions,” further developed its nuclear weapons, and produced nuclear fissile materials — the weapons’ key ingredients.
The experts said a light-water reactor at North Korea’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon “appeared to be operational.” South Korea’s defense minister said in late December that the reactor would likely be formally operational by the summer, amid suspicions the North may use it as a new source of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
North Korea has long produced weapons-grade plutonium from its widely known five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon. The light-water reactor would be an additional source of bomb fuels, and observers say its bigger capacity could allow it to produce more plutonium.
Yongbyon has a uranium enrichment facility as well.