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Washington estimates that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test this month

The United States warned on Friday that North Korea could imminently conduct its first nuclear test since 2017, while issuing a new call for dialogue despite the current diplomatic impasse.

• Read also: North Korea: Washington sanctions a cryptocurrency “mixer” for the first time

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According to Washington’s findings, Pyongyang is “preparing the Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh” nuclear test, a doorman told reporters. word of the American diplomacy, Jalina Porter.

“This analysis is consistent with recent public statements made by North Korea itself,” she added, assuring that the US government had shared it with its allies and would “continue” its “close coordination with them”.

Kim Jong Un’s regime had ceased firing intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear tests since 2017. He has already partly broken this moratorium by firing an intercontinental missile at the end of March, and many observers expect him to also test an atomic weapon soon, as he has already done six times between 2006 and 2017.

His last nuclear test was also his most powerful, a hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.

Satellite imagery showed signs of new activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site. The latter, according to the North Koreans, was demolished in 2018 ahead of a historic summit between Kim Jong Un and then US President Donald Trump, which marked the start of a phase of dialogue that has since gone on for a long time. fire.

Sanctioned Cryptocurrency Mixer

Joe Biden, successor to the Republican billionaire, said he was ready to renew this dialogue to discuss a denuclearization of the reclusive country, but his outstretched hand has so far remained empty.

On the contrary, North Korea has been increasing since the beginning of the year the tests of armaments prohibited by the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations.

“The United States remains determined to want a diplomatic exchange” and calls on North Korea “to dialogue”, reaffirmed the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken on Friday.

So far, the Biden administration has rather turned its back on what it nevertheless considers to be “provocations”.

Its response remained relatively modest, in the form of primarily symbolic sanctions, even if its envoy for the North Korean file, Sung Kim, assured in mid-April that he had discussed with Seoul “how to respond” to “a possible test nuclear”.

On Friday, the US Treasury broke new ground by sanctioning “for the first time” a “cryptocurrency mixer”, a sophisticated service suspected of having facilitated “illegal” North Korean financial activities.

This “blender”,, is accused of having helped launder part of the spoils of the “largest cryptocurrency heist” in the world – the theft of $ 620 million in late March attributed by Washington to a group of hackers linked to Pyongyang.

“To circumvent tough UN and US sanctions, North Korea has turned to stealing funds from cryptocurrency exchanges” to generate revenue for its illegal weapons programs of mass destruction and ballistic missiles,” Antony Blinken said in a statement.

In mid-April, US authorities accused the Lazarus group and APT38, hackers “associated” with the reclusive regime, of being responsible for the theft of $620 million in ethereum that followed the hacking of the Axie Infinity video game at the end of March.

Axie Infinity is a blockchain-based game, a decentralized digital ledger that cannot be changed. It allows you to earn money in the form of NFTs, digital tokens.

According to the US Treasury, Blender was used in laundering more than $20.5 million of the $620 million stolen.

Blender, which is also the English name for a kitchen blender, is a service that facilitates the laundering of funds extorted by hackers “by muddying the waters on their origin, destination and counterparties”, according to the Treasury.

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