There is growing concern the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, could have died last week after complications from heart surgery. Without a clear successor, there are fears a bitter civil war could break out in the event the ruler’s death is confirmed. Now, one US think tank is warning the regime’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) could find themselves in the hands of separatists or fleeing members of the regime.
Doctor Patrick R. Terrell of the Defense University in Washington DC said: “Individual opportunists, fleeing members of the regime leadership or breakaway separatists could gain access to North Korean WMDs.”
He added: “We do not yet face a clear and present existential threat to the American homeland, but we are getting closer each day. The threat will be very real very shortly.”
Doctor Terrell spoke of the distinct threat of North Korean weapons of mass destruction being smuggled out of the country.
He said: “Scientists closer to the Chinese border may attempt to infiltrate across the land border, while military commanders close to the coast may attempt to smuggle weapons through China aboard fishing boats or coastal submarines.”
There is also the possibility that North Korean military commanders may steal nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons to use as a way of bartering with the US and South Korean governments to “gain status in a new government, money or safe passage out of the country”.
Because the US and South Korea possess a strategic advantage over the land, sea, and air routes in the region, the ruling family of North Korea developed ways to ensure they were still a considerable threat.
The Kim dynasty first decided to develop a string of illegal chemical weapons programmes that would allow them to have potent leverage in foreign policy negotiations.
What followed was a biological weapons programme, that if not controlled would not just be a threat to the northeastern pacific region, but could be detrimental to the entire globe.
North Korea has large quantities of mustard gas and the Second World War-era chemical weapon lewisite.
The most frightful chemical stockpile is the nation’s nerve agent program, such as the use of the VX nerve agent to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Much more dangerous to the wider global community than chemical weapons are North Korea’s stockpiles of biological weapons.
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Even though it is a member of the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention, North Korea could readily conduct research, development, and production of biological weapons under the guise of legitimate pharmaceutical and medical research.
According to North Korean defectors and assessments by the US and South Korean governments, North Korea began acquiring a biological weapons capability as early as the 1960s under the orders of Kim Il-sung.
Unlike its chemical weapons program, Pyongyang is believed to have built its biological program indigenously.
The biological weapons agents that the regime possesses are the deadly anthrax and smallpox pathogens.
Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessments suggests that the Korean People’s Army’s (KPA) inventory might include the causative agents: for Botulism, Cholera, Korean Hemorrhagic Fever, Bubonic Plague, Smallpox, Typhoid Fever, and Yellow Fever.
The regime is also propagating pathogens for Ebola, Dysentery, Staph, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Alimentary Toxic Aleukia.
A high-level defector recently stated in a South Korean military report that he witnessed the mounting of undisclosed biological or chemical weapons on drones and that the drones’ dispersal capabilities were tested on animal populations.
Many defectors have accused the North Korean regime of testing biological agents on human subjects, but these claims cannot be independently substantiated.
But, more worryingly the North Koreans have both Hydrogen and atomic bombs.
Once it is capable of miniaturising a warhead to a size that fits onto a successfully tested ICBM, the United States will likely face an even more emboldened and belligerent North Korea.
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