North Korea may have spent as much as $642 million on its nuclear program last year, according to anti-nuclear activists, as the impoverished country appears poised to test a new weapon despite battling a COVID-19 outbreak and an economic downturn. crisis.
There is no confirmed data on North Korea’s nuclear spending or the size of its arsenal. It has conducted at least six nuclear tests since 2006 and appears to be preparing to resume testing for the first time since 2017.
In a report on global spending on nuclear weapons released Tuesday, the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said its estimate is based on the assumption that North Korea has remained about a third of its gross national income (GNI). spend on its military, and about 6% of that military budget on nuclear weapons.
By that estimate, North Korea was the lowest of the nine nuclear-armed countries covered by the ICAN report, and about half the spending of the second-lowest country, Pakistan.
The United States, which has waged an international campaign to impose sanctions on North Korea for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, has criticized Pyongyang for spending millions of dollars on its military while facing food shortages and other economic problems.
North Korea says it has the sovereign right to develop nuclear weapons for self-defense, and that they are necessary to protect the country from international threats.
It is unclear whether Pyongyang has cut funding for its nuclear program during the pandemic.
But analysts, foreign officials and independent experts overseeing United Nations sanctions have reported that Pyongyang appears to have made progress toward its stated goal of developing and expanding its arsenal, with activity and new construction observed at its main nuclear reactor. , uranium mine, and other related sites.
In an annual report released this week, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that North Korea may have collected up to 20 nuclear warheads and likely possessed enough fissile material for about 45-55 nuclear devices.
“North Korea’s military nuclear program remains at the center of its national security strategy,” SIPRI said.
South Korea’s latest defense white paper reported that North Korea possesses about 50kg of weapons-grade plutonium and “significant” amounts of highly enriched uranium, an estimate that has remained unchanged since 2016.
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