The consensus among weapons inspectors, intelligence analysts, academics and others I have interviewedâ€”â€“which is backed up by the available open source materialâ€”-is that North Korea has developed anthrax, plague and botulism toxin as weapons and has extensively researched at least six other germs including smallpox and typhoid. It is also believed to have 5,000 tons or more of mustard gas, sarin nerve agent and phosgene (a choking gas). The Center for Nonproliferation Studies says North Korea ranks “amongst the largest possessors of chemical weaponry in the world.” South Korea’s military estimates half of North’s long-range missiles and 30 percent of its artillery are CBW capable.
Watching the United Nations Security Council grind its way to a compromise resolution on North Korea, it’s hard to avoid returning to one question: What took them so long to do something about North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction? Over the past 45 years, North Korea has assembled a huge arsenal of mass casualty weapons – namely biological and chemical weapons. Yet it is only when North Korea gets as far as possible nuclear capability the U.N. rouses itself from its slumbers and waddles into action.
I’ve been writing and researching the subject of biological and chemical warfare on and off for six years. The extent of North Korea’s completely operational biochemical warfare program is widely known and frequently assessed by the U.S. and its allies, as well as many non-proliferation organizations such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. North Koreaâ€™s program has been in development since the ’60s under the control of the fabulously Orwellian Fifth Machine Industry Bureau. In that time, North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) program has assembled a formidable array of poisons, toxins, chemicals and weaponized germs…
John Bolton, now leading the charge at the U.N., gave a speech in 2002 as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, in which he stated: “North Korea has a dedicated, national level effort to achieve a BW capacity and has developed and produced and may have weaponized, BW agents …. the leadership in Pyongyang has spent large sums of money to acquire the resources ….. capable of producing infectious agents, toxins and other crude biological weapons. It likely has the capability to produce sufficient quantities of biological agents for military purposes within weeks of deciding to do so and has a variety of means at its disposal for delivering these deadly weapons.”
…In contrast, as one North Korea expert explained to me, CBW is mass destruction on the cheap. “Biological and chemical weapons are very inexpensive, many, many times cheaper than nuclear.” Another expert gave this grim assessment: “The use of anthrax is a distinct possibility for this nation [North Korea].”
I know that a lot of Americans long to return to the holiday from history that we enjoyed from the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But, alas, while we were on holiday, the forces of evil determined to destroy us were gathering strength.
Michael Barone asks “What Is Kim Jong Il Up To?“.
I’m not sure what to make of Michael Yon’s post at The Corner:
A very well-placed government source told me Tuesday afternoon that the North Korean explosion was non-nuclear. The explosion may have been an actual nuclear test â€” this is unknown â€” but the source reports the outcome was non-nuclear. The source stressed the importance of bearing in mind that though the explosion occured in North Korea â€” if it was actually a test and not merely a dictator clamoring for attention and influence â€” the test may have been by or for the Iranians. The source reported that American physicists with access to the information see no sign of nuclear activity, however. My source also mentioned that Japanese sensors picked up no radiation signatures.
McCain posted this at Ed Morrisey’s blog!
…I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husbandâ€™s administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.
Prior to the agreement, every single time the Clinton Administration warned the Koreans not to do something — not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor — they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton Administration with further talks. We had a carrots and no sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didnâ€™t work, we offered another.
This isnâ€™t just about North Korea. Iran is watching this test of the Councilâ€™s will, and our decisions will surely influence their response to demands that they cease their nuclear program. Now, we must, at long last, stop reinforcing failure with failure.
…All this means outside pressure is unlikely to be of much use in bringing down Kim’s regime. But that does not mean it cannot crumble from inside. Countries that resort to nuclear weapons often do so to mask their own failures. If there was one lesson from the West’s victory in the Cold War, it is that no amount of nuclear weapons can stop the disintegration of an anachronistic and inefficient social and political system. If thousands of nuclear warheads did not save the Soviet Union from collapse, there’s no reason to believe that a handful of much smaller ones can save Kim’s decaying system from ultimately imploding — thus solving the North Korean nuclear problem.
By far the most informed analysis of NK policy options I’ve seen comes from Dr Andrei Lankov, Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University. Lankov is now on leave and teaching at the Kookmin University, Seoul. Today Lankov published an excellent summary of options in the Wall Street Journal:
2. Air strikes
3. Naval blockade
4. Economic sanctions
5. Wait for the regime to crumble from inside
Lankov makes a good case that #5 is the only plausible policy. Also recommended is Lankov’s January, 2006 paper “The Natural Death of North Korean Stalinism” [PDF]
For now we’ll pass on the Nokor test, which needs “ripening”. Even the highly reliable Richard Fernandez has little of substance to contribute at this point. Richard’s latest post is the most interesting I’ve seen — but it is 99% speculation.
Claudia Rosett is on top of the Korean nuclear threats:
Let no one say the UN can’t act in a crisis. With North Korea threatening to conduct an in-our-face nuclear bomb test, the UN Security Council has just wheeled out a threat of its own. If North Korea goes ahead, the UN will respond with — well, go ahead and make a guess:
A) The immediate expulsion of North Korea from the UN.
B) The urgent assembly of a coalition to launch precision missile strikes anywhere that North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Il might next pop up, including one of the few dependable heat sources in the country — his motorcade.
C) Public pressure on North Korea’s neighbor, China, to actually comply with its UN treaty obligations on refugees, and offer immediate safe passage or asylum to all North Koreans who wish to flee their country — which might simplify the North Korean problem by emptying the place overnight of almost everyone but Kim Jong Il and the usual visiting Iranian missile-and-bomb experts.
D) “Unspecified action.”
If you guessed D, you are clearly spending precious time following the UN’s abject failure to stop nuclear-armed rogue states, when you could be reading Rep. Mark Foley’s emails. But you guessed right. Of course, “unspecified action” is not the only weapon in the UN arsenal. If that doesn’t work, there’s always “further action,” — or, this being North Korea, maybe another round of “additional action.”
Richard Fernandez examines the speculation that North Korea will execute their first test of a nuclear weapon. Read the whole thing, which concludes:
Distributed terror. The distributed manufacture of nuclear weapons. Fourth generation warfare. The institutions of the late 20th century steadfastly resist acknowledging the existence of these phenomena because doing so would be tantamount to an admission of obsolescence. And to keep their uneasy positions of privilege they must pretend that everything is well in hand when they don’t even know what lies beyond their small circle of light.
The Bush administration is frequently whipped for its multilateral approach to North Korea, as Tigerhawk comments:
The problem with the Kerry strategy of unilateral engagement with North Korea is that we actually have far fewer cards to play than either China or South Korea. Any solution that those countries do not “own” is doomed to fail, just as the much-heralded Clinton administration agreement failed. We should not do either country the favor of making North Korea first and foremost an American problem, both because that is what Kim wants us to do (which ought to be reason enough to deny it) and because it lets China and South Korea get away without fashioning their own solution.
And there is now evidence the Bush strategy is producing some results at least — with China cutting back oil exports to North Korea, while Vietnam has agreed to deny banking services to North Korea.
Strategy Page on the remarkable NK:
…Meanwhile, North Korean officials engage in even more bizarre behavior. For example, food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It’s no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem. If the North Koreans appear to make no sense, that’s because they don’t. Put simply, when their unworkable economic policies don’t work, the North Koreans just conjure up new, and equally unworkable, plans…