World · August 5, 2022

North Korea prepares for atomic tests, dodges sanctions in the arms race

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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 have plans to begin testing nuclear weapons in the near future.

The report was obtained from the Japanese news website Nikkei and presented results indicating that North Korea has begun digging new tunnels at the Punggye-ri test site, which could allow the government to conduct “additional nuclear tests to the development of nuclear weapons “.

The report covers the first half of 2022 and also describes the ways in which North Korea has managed to avoid sanctions and continue to fund its operations. The United Nations Security Council’s North Korea Sanctions Committee will discuss the findings before publishing the report.

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

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the UN General Assembly during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on Monday and said Pyongyang “is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test”.

“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 participates in an expansion call of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in this photo published by the country's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2022.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participates in an expansion call of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea in this photo published by the country’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2022.
(KCNA via Reuters)

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

“A long time ago, the DPRK withdrew from the NPT through the lawful procedure under the relevant article stipulated in the NPT,” the officials wrote. “Consequently, no one has the right or justification to accuse the DPRK, a nuclear weapons state outside the NPT, of its exercise of its right to self-defense.”

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North Korea accused the United States of trying to undermine “the foundations of the non-proliferation regime” and of remaining “undecided on nuclear threats and blackmail against sovereign states”.

“The United States itself would not deny that it transferred the technology of a nuclear-powered submarine to Australia and that it connected and sponsored Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons,” the statement continues. “It is the pinnacle of intense blaming that the United States blames someone’s ‘nuclear threats’, as it is the linchpin of nuclear proliferation that has historically violated its treaty obligations article after article and interrupted international peace and regional security. “

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North Korea and South Korea have said that Pyongyang can conduct a nuclear test “whenever it wishes,” but the hermit kingdom continues to face obstacles, most notably a new outbreak of COVID-19 that began in May.

Although satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear site to the north indicate that Pyongyang has consistently restored the nuclear site’s tunnel 3, no observations or public reports of the nuclear test have been made.

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

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