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North Korea has suspended its plans for “military action” for the time being, according to its state media. Kim Jong-un, the country’s supreme leader, gave a statement yesterday morning that he had taken the “prevailing situation” into consideration and decided to do a U-turn. Pressure had been mounting from the North in recent weeks with a string of threats – both verbal and physical.
The first came after 500,000 balloons landed in the North from the South, each carrying anti-Kim propaganda leaflets.
To this, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong – who has stepped into the spotlight in recent months – branded those responsible for the leaflets as “human scum” calling the South “the enemy”.
After cutting a telecommunications line between the two that had been in daily use between Pyongyang and Seoul since 2018, Yo-jong said further strategic military action would follow.
And, it did.
A few days later, the North blew up a joint liaison office with the South in the border city of Kaesong.
Although tensions have since simmered, many experts have reasoned that the North will likely bare its teeth later in the year.
For now, though, any ballistic or nuclear missile attacks appear out of the question.
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What could strike at any minute, a 2018 report by journalist Yochi Dreazen claimed, is the North’s arsenal of biological weapons.
According to the report, “North Korea’s arsenal is thought to include smallpox, yellow fever, anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, and even plague.”
Andrew Webber, formerly the assistant secretary of defence for nuclear, chemical, and biological defence programmes, told Mr Dreazen the extent to which the North would be willing to use its bio-weaponry to inflict lasting damage.
He said: “We would expect to see cocktails of fast-acting biological agents designed to stop troops in their tracks and regular infectious agents that would take more time to kill people.
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“There would be a significant military impact, and a significant psychological one.
“It’s hard to overstate just how frightening these types of weapons are.”
In a 2017 report, researchers from Harvard University noted that minute quantities of anthrax “equivalent to a few bottles of wine” could kill up to half the population of a densely populated city like Seoul.
The paper speculates that “theoretically” it is possible that North Korea could fire missiles with payloads of anthrax or other biological weapons into South Korea, or use drones to disperse the lethal substances from the air.
The Harvard researchers also explained that Kim could potentially send North Korean citizens into the South to spread deadly virus’ and disease.
For example: “North Korean sleeper agents disguised as cleaning and disinfection personnel could disperse BW agents with backpack sprayers.”
North Korean agents have already shown great skill in using nerve agents such as VX.
In 2017, two women trained by North Korean intelligence agents killed Kim’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam while the 45-year-old walked through an airport in Malaysia, smearing his face with VX.
Retired Lt. Gen. Chip Gregson, the Pentagon’s top Asia official from 2009 to 2011 told Mr Dreazen that the example is a vivid illustration of how skilled and technologically advanced the North is to be able to execute such a task without injuring anyone but the target.
The US military has taken this, among several other potentialities, into its protocol against the North.
It already has one action plan, dubbed OPLAN 5015, on the back burner – something which would look to “decapitate” Kim and his inner circle, and install a more moderate leader.
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