North Korea’s Chemical Weapons: The Real Threat the World Should Fear?

North Korea’s Chemical Weapons: The Real Threat the World Should Fear?

Bertil Lintner

Security, Asia

They can kill.

After the Kuala Lumpur attack, Raymond Zilinskas, a chemical and biological nonproliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, said that VX fumes would have killed the attackers even if they were wearing gloves.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made clear at a press conference on March 17 in Seoul, South Korea that Washington’s “strategic patience” with North Korea has ended after a series of provocative actions and that some sort of military intervention against Pyongyang could be on the cards.

Last month’s murder by nerve agent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia, however, casts doubt on the ultimate strategic utility of potential US air strikes against the secretive country’s many military installations.

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.

Last month’s murder by nerve agent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia, however, casts doubt on the ultimate strategic utility of potential US air strikes against the secretive country’s many military installations.

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. And Pyongyang’s use of the lethal VX nerve agent in a transnational assassination has sent a chilling warning of its apparent willingness to use biological and chemical weapons in a conflict scenario.

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