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Report: North Korea ‘building factories’ for ‘bio-weapons production’
While Kim Jong Un’s nuclear capabilities are well-known, the North Korean dictator may be engaging in something far more horrific. The two most denounced weapon systems in the world are chemical and biological.
While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was vilified for engaging in chemical warfare, the North Korean ruler may soon be known for germ warfare. Reportedly, North Korea is building factories and acquiring equipment capable of biological weapons production.
The United States discovered last month that North Korea now has factory complexes capable of producing microbes — by the ton. New York magazine reported Sunday:
U.S. experts are alarmed by North Korea’s strides toward obtaining the knowledge and equipment needed to produce biological weapons. It’s no secret that North Korea is pursuing a bioweapons program, though it’s usually overshadowed by their drive to develop nuclear weapons.
What’s raised new concerns is North Korea’s development of factories that could be used to produce tons of microbes, and labs focused on genetic modification. North Korea has also sent its scientists to study advanced biotechnology abroad. There’s no evidence that Kim Jong-un has ordered the mass production of biological weapons — but it’s unclear why.
“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” a senior U.S. official told The Washington Post in a report published Sunday. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”
Secrecy is bio’s hallmark
The official added that unlike the horrific blast of a nuclear device, biological warfare is waged silently and may be undetected until it’s too late.
“If it started tomorrow we might not know it, unless we’re lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place,” the official said.
The Post reported:
In a country that is famously secretive, it is perhaps the most carefully guarded secret of all. North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare program of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.
Despite the program’s secrecy, Kim provided a glimpse into what North Korea was engaging in two years ago. Accompanied by a state-owned TV camera crew, he toured the new sprawling, two-story Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute.
The claim was that the facility was developing biological pesticides for agricultural use. U.S. analysts who viewed the footage disagreed and got “an unexpected jolt” after reviewing and studying it.
The military-run facility contained machinery and equipment, much of it “banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions” because of its ability to be used to produce biological weapons. They included fermenters capable of producing live microbes in bulk, and dryers “designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.”
A strong north wind could silently carry the spores southward, infecting U.S. and South Korean troops and their families as well as the South Korean civilian population.
With that apocalyptic thought in mind, it’s possible that North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling is little more than a feint.
“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran told the Post. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”
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