By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, Feb 8 (Reuters) - North Korea maintained anddeveloped its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout2020 in violation of international sanctions, said a U.N.diplomat with knowledge of a confidential report given toSecurity Council members on Monday.
The report by independent sanctions monitors said Pyongyang"produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities andupgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure" and continued toseek material and technology for those programs from abroad.
The annual report to the Security Council's North Koreasanctions committee comes just weeks after U.S. President JoeBiden took office. A State Department representative said onMonday the administration planned a new approach to North Koreathat includes a full review with allies "on ongoing pressureoptions and the potential for any future diplomacy."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former U.S. PresidentDonald Trump met three times in 2018 and 2019, but failed tomake progress on U.S. calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclearweapons and North Korea's demands for an end to sanctions.
In the past year, North Korea displayed new short-range,medium-range, submarine-launched and intercontinental ballisticmissile systems at military parades, the U.N. report said,according to the U.N. diplomat.
While there were no nuclear or ballistic missile tests in2020, Pyongyang "announced preparation for testing andproduction of new ballistic missile war heads and development oftactical nuclear weapons."
North Korea's U.N. mission in New York did not immediatelyrespond to a request for comment on the report.
North Korea has been subjected to U.N. sanctions since 2006.They have been strengthened by the 15-member Security Councilover the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’snuclear and ballistic missile programs.
In 2019, the U.N. sanctions monitors reported that NorthKorea made at least $370 million by exporting coal, which isbanned under U.N. sanctions. But last year, they said coalshipments appeared to have been largely suspended since July2020.
The isolated Asian nation imposed a strict lockdown lastyear amid the coronavirus pandemic that has slashed its trade,hurting an economy already burdened by international sanctions.
More than 40 countries accused North Korea in July, however,of illicitly breaching a U.N. cap on refined petroleum imports.
The U.N. sanctions monitors said imagery and data providedto them by a unidentified member state showed that Pyongyang hadbreached the annual cap of 500,000 barrels "by several times."
Kim said last month his five-year economic plan had failed.He had sought to accelerate economic growth and boostelectricity supply, but U.N. agencies reported chronic power andfood shortages, exacerbated by sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemicand severe floods.(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney)