The historic 2018 United States-North Korea summit seemed too good to be true but thankfully resulted with a plan to denuclearize North Korea and de-escalate tensions at the Korean border. After years of conflict, the start of a new diplomatic era between the two countries has begun. As Kim Jong-un regains reputation and trust with the rest of the world, North Korea could find the perfect opportunity to prepare undetectable stealth weapons that could cause far greater terror and death on human populations. As Pyongyang and Washington continue to discuss nuclear arms, is this the perfect opportunity for Kim Jong-un to pursue biological weapons?
A recent New York Times report warns that North Korea is pursuing biological weapons that could exterminate humanity. The report was echoed by conservative South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. As nuclear disarmament continues, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies warns that de-nuclearization of North Korea will not end the dire threat that the dictatorship poses to the rest of the world. Nuclear bomb facilities are easy to recognize and audit; whereas, biological weapons facilities can be disguised as beneficial research labs.
North Korean defectors claim that the rogue dictatorship has tested biological agents on political prisoners for years. A report by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs claims that North Korean military defectors have tested positive for smallpox antibodies, an indicator that defectors are subjected to biological agents in some shape or form. Therefore, national security advisors are concerned that North Korea possesses vast quantities of highly infectious forms of smallpox, bubonic plague, and/or anthrax. These pathogens could be edited at the genetic level to enhance their virulence. North Korean military analyst, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., believes that North Korea has already experimented with gene editing that could enhance the lethal consequences of biological agents. To make matters worse, these experiments could easily fly under the radar and be conducted in pesticide or vaccine research facilities. South Korea recently published a defense paper revealing North Korea’s long history of producing biological and chemical weapons. The paper estimates that North Korea has generated between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of biological weapons since the 1980s.
According to the Times, “A single gallon of anthrax, if suitably distributed, could end human life on Earth.” Nuclear chemical and biological defense expert Andrew C. Weber says that North Korea is “far more likely to use biological weapons than nuclear ones.”
“[North Korea’s] programme is advanced, underestimated, and highly lethal,” says Weber, a former Pentagon official. The Pentagon is also aware of North Korea’s work with phosgene, sarin, tabun, chlorine, and hydrogen cyanide, all of which could be weaponized against humanity. The threat of these experiments is similar to Monsanto’s work with the U.S. military back in Vietnam, when Agent Orange unleashed horrifying consequences.
In 2015, one of North Korea’s facilities, the Bio-Technical Institute, came under international scrutiny. Photos show Kim Jong-un smiling alongside military officers and scientists in an agricultural plant that contained machinery disavowed by U.S. sanctions. The photos show fermenting machines that grow microbes and sophisticated spray dryers that can turn biological agents into a fine dispersal powder. According to scholar Melissa Hanham, North Korea obtained the machinery on the black market through bribes and fake companies. She warns that North Korea has the ability to convert a supposedly harmless pesticide plant into a bio-weapon manufacturing facility within weeks. Security advisors warn that these facilities should be routinely investigated to ensure they are not used for nefarious goals. As U.S. President Donald Trump continues to negotiate with North Korea, the issue of bio-weapons should be brought to the table.
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