U.S., South Korea, Japan Discuss North Korean Crypto Thefts in Trilateral Meeting

North Korea has stolen billions of dollars' worth of crypto in support of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,

AccessTimeIconDec 9, 2023 at 5:01 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 6:28 p.m. UTC

National security officials with the U.S., South Korean and Japanese governments discussed North Korea's crypto thefts and other efforts to work on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the White House announced Friday night.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Republic of Korea National Security Advisor Cho Tae-Yong and Japan National Security Advisor Takeo Akiba met in Seoul, South Korea to discuss various issues, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name for North Korea) and its ongoing weapons of mass destruction program, a White House readout said.

"The National Security Advisors reviewed progress on a wide range of trilateral initiatives, including the Commitment to Consult on regional crises, the sharing of ballistic missile defense data, and our collective efforts to respond to the DPRK’s use of cryptocurrency to generate revenue for its illicit WMD programs," the readout said.

The three officials also discussed North Korea's relationship with Russia, the readout said.

North Korea's theft of billions of dollars' worth of crypto from various projects in the industry have drawn attention from various government entities. The U.S. government alleged that Lazarus Group, a notorious hacking entity tied to the DPRK, stole over $600 million from Axie Infinity's Ronin Bridge last year.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has sanctioned multiple mixers it alleged North Korean hackers used to move stolen funds. Just last week, OFAC added two crypto addresses tied to the Sinbad mixer. Police officials from multiple nations jointly seized Sinbad's website as well.

OFAC has also banned various wallet addresses and individuals from the dollar-based global financial system, alleging similarly supported North Korea's efforts to launder stolen funds in support of its weapons program.

Most famously, OFAC listed privacy tool Tornado Cash as a sanctioned entity, alleging more than $100 million in stolen crypto has flown through the mixing service.

Two of the project's developers, Roman Storm and Alexey Pertsev, are currently facing charges in the U.S. and the Netherlands respectively tied to their work on Tornado Cash. A third developer, Roman Semenov, was charged with money laundering and sanctions violations, but has not yet been arrested.

Storm is set to go on trial next year.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.