THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Japan, South Korea and the United States seek stronger global support of efforts to defund North Korea’s nuclear program by banning its workers and curbing its cybercrimes.
The allies’ top nuclear envoys met in Seoul in early April 2023 for the first time in four months to discuss North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal. The North’s latest weapons tests show it wants to acquire more advanced missiles to attack the U.S. and its allies rather than negotiate, according to analysts. (Pictured: From left to right, Takehiro Funakoshi, Japan’s nuclear envoy; Kim Gunn, South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator and Sung Kim, U.S. special representative to North Korea meet in Seoul in early April 2023.)
Despite 11 rounds of United Nations sanctions and COVID 19-related hardships that has further weakened its economy and made food even more scarce, North Korea devotes much of its resources to nuclear and missile programs. Part of its weapons program also entails crypto hacking and other illicit cyber activities, and wages sent home by North Korean workers in the People’s Republic of China, Russia and elsewhere, despite a U.N. order to repatriate them by the end of 2019, experts said.
In a statement, the Japanese, South Korean and U.S. envoys urged the international community to follow U.N. resolutions that ban North Korean workers overseas, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
The ministry said many North Koreans remain employed around the world and send money that bolsters the North’s weapons programs. The three envoys made their appeal because they fear the North might continue to reopen its borders as the COVID-19 situation improves, the ministry said.
Before the 2019 U.N. deadline passed, the U.S. State Department estimated about 100,000 North Koreans worked in factories, at construction sites, in logging industries and elsewhere outside their country. Civilian experts had said those workers brought North Korea $200 million to $500 million annually.
“We need to make sure that its provocations never go unpunished. We will effectively counter North Korea’s future provocations and cut their revenue streams that fund these illegal activities,” Kim Gunn, the South Korean envoy, said at the start of the meeting.
Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy, said that with its nuclear and missile programs and “malicious cyber program that targets countries and individuals around the globe,” North Korea threatens the world’s security and prosperity.
South Korea’s spy agency said in December 2022 that North Korean hackers had stolen about $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency and other virtual assets in the previous five years. The National Intelligence Service said North Korea’s capacity to steal digital assets was considered among the most proficient in the world.
Takehiro Funakoshi, the Japanese envoy, said North Korea’s recent weapons tests and fiery rhetoric pose a grave threat to the region and beyond. “Under such circumstances, our three countries have significantly deepened our coordination,” he said.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS