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N. Korea estimated to have spent $620m on nukes in 2019: report

North Korea fires a pair of super-large rockets into the East Sea in its fourth weapons test of the year on March 29, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea fires a pair of super-large rockets into the East Sea in its fourth weapons test of the year on March 29, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)

North Korea is estimated to have spent $620 million on its nuclear weapons program in 2019, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said Wednesday in its latest annual report on nuclear spending -- about 6 percent of its defense budget, which accounts for roughly one-third of its gross national income.

The figures came from two previous estimates of the reclusive country’s military spending based on South Korean and international data. In 2009 the North is thought to have spent $8.77 billion, about 35 percent of its gross national income at that time. In 2011, about 6 percent of its military spending seemed to have gone to its nuclear weapons program.

Given the expenditure trajectory, the ICAN report projected that $10.2 billion, about 35 percent of the country’s reported GNI of $29.2 billion in 2018, would be its defense budget, and 6 percent of that, about $620 million, would be Pyongyang’s nuclear expenditure in 2019.

That means the North spent $1,180 every minute on nuclear weapons last year. The communist country is believed to have 35 nuclear weapons, according to the report.
 
From ‘Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending’ (Courtesy of ICAN)
From ‘Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending’ (Courtesy of ICAN)

The countries that spent the most on nuclear programs were, in descending order, the US, China, the UK and Russia, with the US investing $35 billion and the others at least $8 billion each. France, India, Pakistan and Israel each spent less than $5 billion, and North Korea spent the least.

Mathew Ha, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense Democracies, told Radio Free Asia that it was difficult to ascertain how much North Korea spent to beef up its nuclear capabilities, given how little information is available.

But the senior analyst, who specializes in North Korea, added that Pyongyang’s nuclear spending in the face of US sanctions reinforced the argument in favor of stronger international sanctions on the communist country.

Pyongyang is illegally financing nuclear activities, he added.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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