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North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons, U.S. think tank says

North Korea has refused to resume denuclearization talks with the United States and could be maintaining dozens of nuclear bombs, according to the Institute for National Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
North Korea has refused to resume denuclearization talks with the United States and could be maintaining dozens of nuclear bombs, according to the Institute for National Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 11 (UPI) -- North Korea is believed to have 15 to 60 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and continues to pose a major threat to the United States, according to a U.S. think tank.

The Institute for National Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington said in its most recent report the Kim Jong Un regime operates "more as a quasi-criminal enterprise than a legitimate nation-state" and may have developed as many as 60 nuclear bombs.

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The INSS' "Strategic Assessment 2020: Into a New Era of Great Power Competition" says North Korea, Russia and Iran are a trio of "rogue, disruptor and spoiler states" that pose threats to U.S. national security.

Beyond its nuclear capacity, North Korea has also conducted arms sales and the "transfer of military technology" that has abetted Iran's ballistic missile program. Pyongyang has also "pursued military cooperation and technology transfers in the Sudan and offered small arms and ballistic missiles to the Houthi rebels in Yemen through a Syrian intermediary."

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North Korea's cyberattacks on banks have also been on the rise. Breaches of financial institutions in Bangladesh, Chile, Guatemala, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam have been successful, according to the INSS.

"These attacks can be quite lucrative; it has been reported that in one such attack against the Central Bank of Bangladesh in 2016, North Korea netted $81 million," the report says.

North Korea continues to develop weapons, but the United States and South Korea have prioritized diplomacy despite Pyongyang's refusal to meet and discuss denuclearization.

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South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday to affirm close cooperation on North Korea and the "Korean Peninsula peace process," Seoul said Tuesday.

South Korean news service Newsis reported Wednesday Kang also met with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., amid the transition of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. Kang said the two sides agreed to a "firm commitment to promoting the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, and stressed the need to strengthen diplomatic efforts," according to Seoul's foreign ministry.

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