09.01.2021, Nordkorea, Pyongyang: Auf diesem von der nordkoreanischen Regierung zur Verfügung gestellten Foto nimmt der nordkoreanische Führer Kim Jong-un an dem achten Kongress der herrschenden Arbeiterpartei teil. Der Atomstreit mit Nordkorea ist eine der größten außenpolitischen Herausforderungen der USA. Der künftige Präsident Joe Biden muss einen eigenen Kurs im Umgang mit Pjöngjang entwickeln. Foto: Uncredited/KCNA via KNS/AP/dpa - ACHTUNG: Nur zur redaktionellen Verwendung und nur mit vollständiger Nennung des vorstehenden Credits +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

According to the United Nations, North Korea is preparing for its first nuclear test since 2017. Most recently, construction work was observed at an underground test facility in the north of the country: “The work at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site paves the way for further nuclear tests for the development of nuclear weapons,” said a previously confidential UN expert report by the German Press Agency existed in parts.

Satellite images indicated that North Korea was repairing its tunnel network in Punggye-ri and rebuilding buildings on the site that were demolished in 2018 during negotiations with the United States. Fissile material production capacity at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility has also been ramped up, according to the UN report covering the period in recent months.

For months, observers have feared that after numerous missile tests, ruler Kim Jong Un’s first nuclear test in almost five years could be imminent. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had already referred to activities in Punggye-ri in June. North Korea conducted six test explosions there between 2006 and 2017.

The country does not allow international on-site inspections. According to the UN, North Korea has fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, including several ICBMs, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

In view of North Korea’s nuclear program, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday that the world was in a “time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”. Mankind is in danger of forgetting the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, from nuclear annihilation.”

According to the UN experts, North Korea continues to finance its nuclear program with hacker attacks in which computer specialists smuggle money to Pyongyang through data theft. They would have stolen “hundreds of millions of dollars” in cryptocurrencies. Contrary to the UN sanctions against the autocracy, the country also exports coal.

With the missile tests and his nuclear program, Kim Jong Un wants to increase the pressure on the world community to lift the sanctions. At the same time, diplomacy with the United States has been on hold since Kim’s failed second summit with former US President Donald Trump in February 2019. North Korea then made it clear several times that it was not interested in new talks as long as Washington made no new proposals.