North Korea is feared to be amassing a biological weapons stockpile for use in acts of terror or future armed conflict, according to a recent report by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The Belfer Center says North Korea has up to 13 types of biological agents at its disposal it can weaponize within 10 days, including anthrax, smallpox, the plague, cholera and botulism.
“Agents like anthrax could cause mass casualties with a small amount: only a few kilograms of anthrax, equivalent to a few bottles of wine, released into a dense city could kill 50 percent of the population,” the report said.
“If used on a large scale, these weapons can cause not only tens of thousands of deaths, but also create panic and paralyze societies,” it added.
The report said interest in Pyongyang’s biological weapons capabilities was renewed after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s half-brother was assassinated with a highly toxic VX nerve agent at a Malaysian airport in February.
The Belfer Center believes the North Korean regime is capable of spreading weaponized biological agents through a variety of means, including missiles, drones, aircraft and portable backpack sprayers.
“It is theoretically possible that North Korean sleeper agents disguised as cleaning and disinfection personnel could disperse (biological weapons) agents with backpack sprayers,” the report said.
The report detailed the challenges in verifying North Korea’s biological weapons capability, noting that the equipment used in creating such agents are also used in agriculture.
“While nuclear programs can be monitored by the number of nuclear tests and the success of missile tests, weaponizing and cultivating pathogens can stay invisible behind closed doors,” the report said. “Moreover, equipment used for (biological weapons) production are often dual-use for agriculture, making external monitoring and verification virtually impossible.”
The report noted that Kim has clearly stated the importance of agricultural reform as “the frontline of socialism,” opening the door for his regime to refit equipment to produce biological weapons.
“A series of photos of the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute released by the North Korean state media in 2015 raised concerns,” The report said. “Analysis of these images revealed that the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute could produce military-sized batches of (biological weapons), specifically anthrax.”
The report said Kim’s recent visit to the Pyongyang Bio-technical unit could have been a signal to the U.S. and South Korea of the regime’s biological weapons capability.
The report comes in the midst of North Korea continuing to threaten the U.S. with a nuclear attack for conducting military exercises with South Korea.
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“The U.S. is running amok by introducing under our nose the targets we have set as primary ones,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency warned the U.S., according to Newsweek.
“The U.S. should expect that it would face unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time.”