U.S. Lawmakers Push White House to Tackle North Korea’s Digital Asset Activities, Report Reveals

Three U.S. senators have taken action against North Korea’s alleged use of cryptocurrencies to finance its nuclear program and evade international sanctions. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal on August 4, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine, and Chris Van Hollen have jointly sent a letter to the White House and Treasury Department, urging the Biden administration to address the issue.

The senators’ letter specifically requested information on the measures being taken by the U.S. government to counter the illicit use of digital assets by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The missive cited reports claiming that North Korean hackers have been responsible for stealing over $3 billion worth of cryptocurrencies since 2018. These pilfered funds are suspected of being used to finance part of the country’s missile program, thus raising serious national security concerns.

Highlighting North Korea’s gradual expertise in dealing with digital assets over the past few years, the senators emphasized the urgent need for action to prevent further exploitation of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities.

Various news outlets have previously reported on hacking incidents linked to North Korea, which resulted in the theft of billions of dollars in cryptocurrencies. In some cases, hackers utilized mixers to obscure the origin of funds, attempting to thwart authorities’ tracking efforts. To address these issues, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control included Tornado Cash in its list of sanctioned entities in November 2022, expressing concerns over its potential use in funding North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has been at the forefront of initiatives aimed at curbing the illicit use of cryptocurrencies. Her efforts have included drawing connections between digital asset payments and Chinese companies supplying opioid fentanyl precursors and proposing legislation for stricter Anti-Money Laundering regulations. In July, she joined a bipartisan group of senators in advocating provisions against crypto mixers and privacy coins within the National Defense Authorization Act.

This latest move by the three senators underscores the growing concern among U.S. lawmakers over the misuse of cryptocurrencies by rogue states and highlights their commitment to take concrete action to address these challenges. As the issue gains more attention at the highest levels of the U.S. government, there may be further developments in regulations and policies aimed at preventing the illicit use of digital assets both domestically and internationally.

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