North Korea has modernised its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by flaunting United Nations sanctions and using cyber attacks to help finance its programmes, according to UN experts.
The experts added that North Korea also used cyber attacks to seek material and technology overseas for its arsenal of weapons.
The panel monitoring the country said in a report North Korea’s "total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020 is valued at approximately $316.4m", according to one unidentified country.
The experts added that investigations found North Korean-linked cyber actors continued to carry out operations in 2020 against financial institutions to generate funds to support the country's weapons programmes.
In its weapons development, the experts said Kim Jong Un's government produced fissile material, an essential ingredient to make nuclear weapons, and maintained nuclear facilities.
"It displayed new short-range, medium-range, submarine-launched and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at military parades," they said.
"It announced preparation for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and development of tactical nuclear weapons… and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure."
The Security Council has imposed increasingly tough sanctions on North Korea since its first test explosion of a nuclear device in 2006.
It has banned most of the country’s exports and severely limited its imports, trying to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
But the report's summary and some key findings and recommendations, obtained by the Associated Press, make it clear that North Korea remains able to evade sanctions.
It also suggests the country is developing its weapons, illicitly import refined petroleum, access international banking channels and carry out "malicious cyber activities".
Last month, North Korea displayed what looked like a number of new weapons in a huge military parade.
It came after Mr Kim threatened to expand his country's arsenal of nuclear weapons unless the US ended what he called hostility to his regime.
The parade included submarine-launched ballistic missiles, described by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as the "world’s most powerful weapon".
Cover image: What appears to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from North Korea at October night military parade (Picture: KCNA).