NEW YORK — North Korea stole a record sum of cryptocurrency last year and may be sending military communications equipment to Russia, according to an annual report to the U.N. Security Council.
The report, released Wednesday by a panel tracking the implementation of sanctions against Pyongyang, estimated the amount of stolen virtual assets from $630 million to over $1 billion, more than double the 2021 total.
“The country used increasingly sophisticated cybertechniques both to gain access to digital networks involved in cyberfinance and to steal information of potential value, including to its weapons programs,” the panel said.
The report urged member countries to adopt guidelines from the anti-money-laundering Financial Action Task Force to prevent virtual assets from being used to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
“Illicitly obtained virtual assets are protected by both the anonymity of the blockchain and the intentional obfuscation of the passage of assets through cryptocurrency exchanges,” it said.
The panel also touched on an investigation of apparent exports of military communications equipment to Russia, and said it has begun looking into claims of ammunition exports there as well amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, illicit ship-to-ship exports of coal and imports of cargo in North Korea’s territorial waters remain a problem, it said.
The report found that Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program has “continued to accelerate dramatically,” tallying at least 73 launches last year, including eight intercontinental ballistic missiles. Its nuclear program has ramped up as well, based on indicators including a growing stockpile of fissile material and activity at the Yongbyon complex and Punggye-ri test site.
The presence of leader Kim Jong Un’s daughter at an ICBM test in November “seemed to emphasize the country’s message about the essential and irreversible nature of its ICBM and nuclear programs,” the report said.
Though these reports have no binding consequences, the Security Council and individual member countries have used them in the past as a basis for new sanctions on specific individuals or organizations.