In 2016, North Korea tried to sell a type of lithium metal used for making miniaturized nuclear weapons to an undisclosed buyer, a new United Nations report says.
Investigators from the U.N.'s Panel of Experts, which oversees the implementation of economic sanctions against North Korea, said a front company run by the state-owned Green Pine Association Corp. attempted to sell the lithium online. The U.S. and U.N. say that Green Pine specializes in making missile systems, submarines, and maritime military equipment.
Enriched lithium, or lithium-6, can be used to produce tritium, which increases the explosive power of nuclear detonations, and can be used in bombs with smaller amounts of uranium or plutonium. It's believed that North Korea has vast amounts of lithium in its soil, and nuclear experts told The Wall Street Journal that the amount of lithium-6 Pyongyang was trying to sell and its level of purity could give clues into its intended use.