20 November 2001
South Korea's Defense Ministry suspects North Korea possesses an arsenal of biological and chemical weapons. However, the ministry also says that there is no clear evidence linking Pyongyang with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin told a parliamentary committee Monday that he estimates Pyongyang has up to 5,000 tons of biological and chemical warfare materials.
He said that anthrax and smallpox are included in the country's arsenal of germ warfare, which he thinks contains agents that cause at least eight other diseases.
However, he said he has no information linking the communist state with Osama bin Laden, the suspected ringleader behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Paul Beaver is an independent military analyst who covers Asian security. "I think North Korea realizes at the end of the day it would also be a target [of Osama bin Laden], as it is not a Muslim country. I think the communist and socialist regimes of Asia are just as worried about terrorism as the democratic countries," Beaver said.
Some military experts believe that North Korea's stockpile, coupled with missiles, could someday pose a threat to South Korea and Japan, home to 100,000 U.S. troops.
But Mr. Beaver says that the biggest potential threat is that North Korea may be providing expertise to other nations. "North Korea exports so much of its military technology in order to get bartered goods or hard currency. So you find North Korea is working with a variety of countries, including those the United States believes are rogue states such as Syria and Iran, possibly Iraq," Beaver said. At a United Nations conference in Geneva on Monday, U.S Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton warned that North Korea, Iraq and four other countries have built germ warfare arsenals. He said that North Korea could likely produce enough biological agents for military use within weeks of deciding to do so.