North Korea continued developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the first half of 2021 in violation of international sanctions and despite the country's worsening economic situation, according to an excerpt of a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters.
The report by a panel of independent sanctions monitors to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee said Pyongyang "continued to seek material and technology for these programmes overseas."
"Despite the country's focus on its worsening economic travails, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continued to maintain and develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes," the sanctions monitors concluded.
The isolated Asian nation imposed a strict lockdown last year amid the coronavirus pandemic that has slashed its trade and aid access, hurting an economy already burdened by international sanctions.
In June, leader Kim Jong Un said the country faced a "tense" food situation and much would depend on this year's harvests.
"Statements made by DPRK suggested a deepening humanitarian crisis in the country, although the COVID-19 blockade means that the relative impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation has probably decreased," the U.N. monitors wrote. "With trade all but stopped by the blockade, and last year's harvest badly affected by floods, the current prospects of the wider DPRK population are poor," they said.
North Korea has been subjected to U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Security Council has steadily strengthened sanctions in a bid to cut off funding for the programs.
Among the sanctions imposed are a ban on the export of coal and other commodities and the import of oil.