North Korea is capable of producing regular, military-sized batches of biological weapons particularly anthrax, according Melissa Han, a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).
North Korea biological weapons program
In her report, Han noted that the biological weapons program of North Korea became obvious after its Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un visited the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute on June 6, 2015.
It was the same day when a North Korean biochemical expert fled to Finland carrying 15 gigabytes of human experiment data. The biochemical expert felt skeptical about his research, which was the primary reason for his defection from North Korea. He is expected to testify about North Korea’s inhumane experiments before the European Parliament next month.
During that day, the North Korea’s state media published photos of Kim Jong-un at the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute, which was apparently producing pesticides. Han analyzed the images and concluded that North Korea can produce anthrax.
“The North Korea assertion that the plant is intended to produce insecticides is an old and well-used cover for a biological weapons program. In fact, it is uncommon for biological weapons facilities to actually function as bio-insecticide plants,” said Han.
According to her, the modern equipment visible on the images shows that “North Korea is maintaining a biological weapons capability. It also violated international treaties and regulations preventing the proliferation of biological weapons.
She added that North Korea’s scientists at the Pyongyang facility could convert between civilian and military strains of bacteria in a matter of days by simply sterilizing and resetting the equipment.
The origin or capacity of the biological weapons program of North Korea is unknown. Han noted some assertions that Pyongyang obtained a sample of Bacillus anthracis that came from Japan in 1968.
A report in 2009 suggested that North Korea has a large stockpile of chemical weapons. It was also suspected of maintaining a biological weapons program. The North Korean government denied having chemical or biological weapons program but admitted that it was threatened by the U.S. and South Korea.
North Korea violated its obligations under the BWTC
Furthermore, Han said North Korea violated export control laws based on the images of the equipment used by Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute. The dual-use control list of the Australia Group), an informal forum of countries that ensures exports would not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. The Australia Group has 41 members including the United States, the European Union, South Korea, Japan and other countries.
North Korea is a member of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which prohibits the use, development, and production of biological weapons. North Korea violated its obligations under the BTWC based on the images of its equipment at its Pyongyang facility.
The country also violated the 2006 UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which prohibits any activities involving the trafficking of biological weapons, their means of delivery or related materials.
A veiled threat to the United States and South Korea
Han suggested that the recent visit of Kim Jong-un to the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute was intended as “veiled threat” to the United States and South Korea.
She noted that the Supreme leader of North Korea visited the Pyongyang facility after the U.S. military made a mistake in shipping live anthrax to laboratories in nine states, and to the Osan Air Base in South Korea.
The world considered the situation as an “embarrassing and dangerous mistake.” North Korea perceived the U.S. military’s mistake as a threat and criticized it as a “preparation for germ warfare against Koreans.” North Korea added that the incident was a move toward “Biochemical War.”
On June 12, North Korea asked the UN Security Council to investigate the United States. Since the Korean War, Pyongyang had been making accusations that the U.S. intends to use biological weapons against it.
Meanwhile, North Korea already succeeded in developing and testing nuclear weapons despite the fact that it has an agreement with the United States in 1994 that it would freeze and dismantle its nuclear program. It was reported that the country has a dozen nuclear weapons, and it could have as much as 20 nuclear bombs by the end of 2016.