North Korea preparing for atomic tests, dodges sanctions in drive for weapons

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A new U.N. draft 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 Japan’s Nikkei news website and laid out findings that indicate North Korea has started to dig new tunnels at the Punggye-ri test site, which could allow the government to conduct “additional nuclear tests for the development of nuclear weapons.” 

The report covers the first half of 2022 and also details ways in which North Korea has managed to dodge sanctions and continue funding its operations. The U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee will discuss the findings before releasing the report. 

The committee may choose to take additional actions — including further sanctions — based on the findings from the report. 

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the U.N. General Assembly during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference on Monday, and claimed that Pyongyang “is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.” 

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

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

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

Pyongyang responded with a statement on Wednesday in which it labeled Blinken’s comments as “anti-DPRK confrontational clamor.” 

“A long time ago, the DPRK pulled out of the NPT through the legitimate procedure under the relevant article stipulated in the NPT,” officials wrote. “Accordingly, nobody has the right or justification to accuse the DPRK, a nuclear possessing state outside the NPT, of its exercise of the right to self-defense.”

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North Korea accused the U.S. of trying to undermine “the foundation of the non-proliferation regime” and remaining “hell-bent on nuclear threats and blackmail against sovereign states.” 

“The United States itself would not deny the fact that it has transferred the technology of a nuclear-powered submarine to Australia and connived at and patronized Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons,” the statement continued. “It is the peak of busy blaming that the United States alleges somebody’s ‘nuclear threats’ given the fact that it is the kingpin of nuclear proliferation which has historically and systematically violated its obligations under the treaty one article after another and disrupted international peace and regional security.”

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North and South Korea have claimed that Pyongyang can conduct a nuclear test “any time it decides,” but the hermit kingdom continues to face obstacles — chief among them a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 that started in May. 

Although satellite imagery of the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear site indicates that Pyongyang has been steadily restoring tunnel 3 of the nuclear site, no public remarks or reports over the nuclear test have been made.

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

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

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