An Oft Forgotten Threat: North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons.

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International attention is often focused on nuclear weapons development. Whether it is Iran or North Korea, the common concern typically centers around this very specific type of weapon of mass destruction, even when considering the threats posed to domestic security by terrorism. Chemical based weapons (CBW) and biological weapons (BW) pose as much as a destructive threat in the short term as any nuclear weapons which North Korea and perhaps one day Iran may one day be able to deploy. Biological and chemical weapons are a distinct kind of terror in that they leave structures intact while slaughtering civilian and military populations. Whether it is a plague or something like sarin gas, chemical and biological weapons have been employed throughout history, from the early Americans giving Native Americans disease ridden blankets (Pontiac’s War 1763-1766) to the use of mustard gas in World War I . The awesomely destructive power of nuclear weapons tends to distract us from the danger presented by these other weapons. This article from The-Diplomat states that intelligence from Russia, the United States, Great Britain and South Korea all indicate that North Korea has a developed chemical and biological weapons program. While it is not known how advanced the North Korean chemical and biological weapons program is, it is a well known fact that North Koreans possesses a slew of delivery methods for such types of weapons. Unlike the program for nuclear weapons and the monitoring of nuclear development with organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, biological and chemical weapons are loosely enforced if at all, lacking any sort of inspection department or verification team.


In 2001 the Bush administration withdrew the United States from the Biological Weapons Convention on the grounds that it was an expensive commitment with little pay off in terms of combatting the proliferation of biological weapons. Another concern internationally is the feared power of the convention to curtail the biotech industry. According to The-Diplomat, “Pyongyang has taken advantage of the BWC’s verification gap by using its position as a state party to the BWC in order to blanket accusations that it continues to produce and maintain biological weapons.  The South Korean Defense Ministry claims that North Korea has possession of several biological agents such as anthrax bacterium, botulinum and smallpox – all of which can be weaponized.” Again, any intelligence with regard to North Korean chemical and biological weapons development programs should be taken with a grain of salt because of the uncertainty surrounding such intelligence. The primary point of divergence between cosignatories to the Biological Weapons Convention and with attempts at the creation of a verification process is that biological agents can be developed for both peaceful and nefarious purposes. Another concern is that North Korea has potentially sold biological or chemical agents to terrorist organizations that have the capability of using them as weapons. South Korea has prepared its domestic population for the possibility of a chemical or biological attack for years. The Defense Ministry program consists of a two part approach emphasizing detection and deterrence. Though not oft considered as immediate a threat as nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons demand the same attention because they are similarly horrific and inhumane.


[The Diplomat]