N Korea’s bio weapons ‘more of a threat than nuclear arsenal’

21-Jan-2019 Intellasia | Telegraph | 6:00 AM Print This Post

North Korea’s biological weapons pose a more serious military threat than its nuclear programme, according to defence analysts, while intelligence assessments have identified a sharp increase in internet searches originating in North Korea for “advanced gene and germ research”.

A study conducted by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US in December concluded that North Korea is accessing the work of foreign researchers to develop its existing biotechnology skills and construct the equipment to produce more biological weapons, the New York Times reported.

The suggestion is that while the administration of President Donald Trump is pushing Pyongyang hard on its nuclear weapons and the associated intercontinental ballistic missile programme, it is making no demands that North Korea come clean on its suspected stockpiles of thousands of tonnes of biological agentsoften described as the “poor man’s nuclear weapon”.

The Times quoted Andrew C Weber, a Pentagon official in charge of nuclear chemical and biological defence programmes under President Barack Obama, as saying, “North Korea is far more likely to use biological weapons than nuclear ones. The programme is advanced, underestimated and highly lethal”.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un bids farewell to Chinese Communist Party's International Department head Song Tao at a station in the Chinese border town of Dandong (KCNA)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un bids farewell to Chinese Communist Party’s International Department head Song Tao at a station in the Chinese border town of Dandong (KCNA)

Analysts claim the threat of a “devastating germ counterattack” is designed to deter the North’s enemies, although biological agents can also be used as offensive weapons.

Among the most potentially lethal agent in the North’s biological armoury is likely to be smallpox, which kills one third of the people who contract the disease, while the regime also has the ability to manufacture anthrax. Chemical agents that have been weaponised are believed to include hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, sarin, tabun and chlorine.

In its latest assessment of Pyongyang’s military capabilities, the South Korean Ministry of National Defence stated in its defence white paper that the North is believed to have produced and stockpiled as much as 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons and has the ability to produce a further 2,000 tonnes a year.

The North has made no secret of its bio-weapon programme, with state media in 2015 showing images of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, touring a biological plant that experts say could be engineered to produce weapons.

Amplyfi, a Cardiff-based artificial intelligence company, last year carried out a search of the “deep Web” in search of North Korean interest in biological weapons. The investigation identified hundreds of thousands of hits, the Washington Post reported, with computer users in North Korea particularly interested in terms such as “gene expression”, “nuclear acid sequence” and “antibiotic resistance”.

A number of North Korean defectors, including former members of the military, have claimed during questioning that the North tests biological and chemical weapons on citizens who have been sentenced to death for crimes against the state.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/01/18/north-koreas-bio-weapons-threat-nuclear-arsenal/

 


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