US intelligence warned Congress of N Korea nuke threats in 2006

15:18 • 11.12.17



Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, US intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was underway on a biological weapon.

The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the Washington Post reports, citing the document.


“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.


A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away. North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification, according to U.S. and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.


Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un’s government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.


The gains have alarmed US analysts, who say North Korea — which has doggedly pursued weapons of mass destruction of every other variety — could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbors or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.


Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.


“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one senior US official familiar with military preparations for a biological attack. The official, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity regarding sensitive military assessments. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”


But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s program, since the new capabilities are embedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.


“If it started tomorrow we might not know it,” the official said, “unless we’re lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place.”

 





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