Pyongyang has written a letter to the United Nations Security Council in which it accuses the United States of targeting it with anthrax.
The controversy arose after a live sample of anthrax was sent out by mistake from a U.S. military laboratory to labs in 19 U.S. states and 4 foreign countries. The incident led to calls from North Korea that the UN should investigate Washington’s “biological warfare schemes,” according to Reuters.
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North Korea alarmed by anthrax shipment to South Korea
Anthrax can be used as a biological weapon and causes serious illness among patients. Live samples were sent to laboratories in Australia, Canada, Britain, and South Korea, causing alarm in its northern neighbor. The samples were supposed to have been killed before shipping, but the process was not successful.
“The United States not only possesses deadly weapons of mass destruction … but also is attempting to use them in actual warfare against (North Korea),” read a letter from Pyongyang’s U.N. Ambassador Ja Song Nam to the U.N. Security Council and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The letter was released to the public on Friday.
U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the accusations. An investigation is ongoing into how the shipments of live anthrax were dispatched from the U.S. military base in Utah. Investigators are testing the theory that quality control problems were to blame for the blunder.
North Korea “strongly requests the Security Council take up the issue of the shipment of anthrax germs in order to thoroughly investigate the biological warfare schemes of the United States,” continues the letter from Ja.
Russia and North Korea criticize U.S. over biological weapons
An accompanying statement from North Korea’s National Defence Commission called the shipment “the gravest challenge to peace and a hideous crime aimed at genocide.”
North Korea is not the only country to express concerns over the live anthrax shipment. Earlier this week the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its fears that the U.S. was carrying out secret research into biological weapons, in violation of a previous treaty aimed at eliminating them from military arsenals around the world.
Russia expressed its own concerns over the shipment to the U.S. Osan Air Base in South Korea. Moscow called into question U.S. abilities to properly handle biological weapons, and accused the U.S. of undermining the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) by maintaining a network of facilities dedicated to research into deadly biohazard agents.
Russia and North Korea wasted no time in criticizing the U.S. for the shipment, and both have used it to suggest that the U.S. maintains a biological weapons program.
North Korea consistently flouts UN sanctions
The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea is a cause of great annoyance for North Korea, and tensions in the peninsula are ratcheted up a notch on an annual basis when U.S. and South Korean forces carry out joint military exercises.
North Korea is currently subject to stringent UN sanctions due to its ongoing work on nuclear and missile programs. Pyongyang is not allowed to buy foreign arms, nor trade nuclear and missile technology. Perhaps less importantly, North Koreans are not allowed to import luxury goods.
A recent investigation by a prominent Iranian opposition group revealed high-level cooperation between nuclear experts from Tehran and Pyongyang. North Korea continues to work on the banned programs and shows no signs of complying with the UN.
UN concerned by human rights, nuclear and missile programs
The organization has roundly criticized the Kim regime’s record on human rights, and a UN Commission of Inquiry reported abuses which it said were comparable to atrocities carried out by the Nazis. Defectors have attested to the existence of prison camps for political prisoners, and stories of gruesome executions are heard periodically.
Ongoing work on missile programs saw North Korea claim to have successfully launched a missile from a submarine, but photos of the launch were found to have been digitally altered. Although such claims do not help to change the image of North Korea as a ridiculous, tinpot regime, Pyongyang should be taken seriously as a threat to regional security.
Experts on the country have decried the cycle that the U.S. and its allies have fallen in their dealings with North Korea. Some claim that Pyongyang has become an expert at manipulating sanctions and international relations in order to get what it wants without making any firm commitments to stop working on nuclear and missile programs, nor improve its record on human rights.
After years of criticism from the U.S. over its programs, it is unsurprising that North Korea has taken this opportunity to go on the counter-offensive and draw attention to U.S. failings.