As nuclear tensions escalate on the Korean peninsula Pyongyang’s mobile chemical weapons would likely factor into any confrontation with America.
U.S. and Asian intelligence officials, said Pyongyang is moving forward to access machinery to use in the program and “factories that can produce microbes by the ton.”
It would not be difficult for US fighters to hit the bases on North Korea’s northeastern coast, from where missiles have been launched in recent provocative test fires, or even to demolish some of its known nuclear facilities at Yongbyon north of the capital Pyongyang or the Punggye-Ri testing site situated in the country’s northeast.
But unlike nuclear reactors and missile launching grounds which can be easily detected by satellites, North Korea’s chemical and biological weapons facilities are known to be hidden underground.
What is known is that North Korea has for years produced chemical and biological weapons at factories in Kanggye in Chagang province near the Chinese border in the country’s north and at Sakchu in North Pyongan province. Both facilities are known to operate underground.
Some chemical weapons have in the past been field tested on islands in the Yellow Sea, off the coast of northwestern North Korea. Causeways link some of those islands with the mainland but no buildings can be seen on them from the air as the facilities are hidden under the earth’s surface, Fox News reports.
“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” one senior U.S. official told the Post.
North Korea is also believed to have significant stockpiles of different kinds of chemical and biological warfare agents, all produced in its underground installations and then stored at Maram-dong near Pyongyang and at Anbyon in the southern border province of Kangwon. Both facilities consist of mazes of tunnels dug into mountains and cannot be detected from the air.
“North Korea’s resources include a biotechnical infrastructure that could support the production of various biological warfare agents. DIA believes North Korea has a longstanding chemical weapons stockpile of nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents.”
The nerve agent VX, or “venomous agent X”, is a tasteless and odorless liquid that was first developed in Britain in the 1950s. The US began producing it in 1961 at Newport Chemical Depot in the state of Indiana. The UN classifies VX as a weapon of mass destruction.
It has been banned by international conventions and cannot be used for anything except in chemical warfare. The US cancelled its chemical weapons program in 1969 and began destroying its stockpiles, first on Johnston Atoll in the South Pacific and later on the US mainland. The last of its chemical weapon stockpile was destroyed in December 2008.
What we do know is that the situation in North Korea is becoming untenable. That was the conclusion of Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, who just completed the first official U.N. visit to North Korea i
n six years. Feltman said that upon meeting Ri Yong-ho, the North Korean minister for foreign affairs, they “agreed that the current situation was the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today.”
Feltman said there’s still time for a diplomatic solution, but is worried that a miscalculation could lead to conflict. “Time is of the essence,” he said.
Huny Badger is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.
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