Officials in South Korea reported that North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Friday, considered to be the third launch this month, in apparent retaliation for new penalties imposed by the Biden administration for the country's continued missile tests.

In reaction to the North's missile launch this week, the sanctions targeted five North Koreans for their roles in procuring equipment and technology for the North's missile programs. It also stated that it would seek fresh UN sanctions.

North Korea conducts 3rd missile test within 2 weeks

North Korea has been conducting further tests of new potentially nuclear-capable missiles aimed at overwhelming regional missile defenses, as per NBC News. Some observers believe Kim Jong Un is reverting to a tried-and-true tactic of threatening the world with missile launches and absurd threats before providing concession-seeking discussions.

Following an unusually provocative series of nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017, which demonstrated the North's pursuit of a nuclear arsenal capable of striking the American homeland, Kim Jong Un began diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018 in an attempt to use his nuclear weapons for economic gain.

However, after Kim Jong Un's second meeting with Trump in 2019, the Americans rejected his proposals for massive sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of North Korea's nuclear weapons.

The person, who was not allowed to speak publicly, said North Korea had not responded to the US invitation a few months ago to meet down without preconditions and discuss measures to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and the potential of US humanitarian supplies. Pyongyang's sole answer has been to conduct fresh missile tests, which the person described as "very disruptive, hazardous, and critical, in violation of a whole number of UN Security Council resolutions," SF Gate reported.

On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the second test flight of a hypersonic missile in a week, claiming that it would significantly boost his country's nuclear "war deterrence."

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North Korean hackers stole $400 million in cryptocurrency

According to new research from blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis, North Korea launched at least seven assaults against cryptocurrency platforms last year, extracting about $400 million in digital assets, making it one of its most successful years on record.

Pyongyang is accused of using stolen cash to boost its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to a UN panel of experts monitoring sanctions on North Korea. North Korea has previously issued comments disputing claims of hacking but has not responded to media inquiries.

Last year, the US accused three North Korean computer programmers working for the country's intelligence service of a multi-year hacking campaign aimed at stealing more than US$1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrencies from firms ranging from banks to movie studios.

Per SCMP, the hacking targets were mostly financial businesses and centralized exchanges, according to Chainalysis, including Liquid.com, which disclosed in August that an unauthorized user had acquired access to some of the bitcoin wallets it controlled.

According to the report, the attackers employed phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering to siphon money out of these businesses' internet-connected "hot" wallets and into North Korean-controlled accounts.

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