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North Korea may have capacity to produce anthrax, analyst says

An analysis of photos of Kim Jong Un from June indicated the leader was responding to news of anthrax shipments to U.S. bases in South Korea from a secretive biotech institute.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Kim Jong Un toured the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute in June. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap
Kim Jong Un toured the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute in June. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap

SEOUL, July 9 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher said Thursday that North Korea has the capacity to produce military-size batches of anthrax through a pesticide research center.

Melissa Hanham of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies said Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute, dedicated to researching pest killers, was a dual-use facility that could produce biological weapons, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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The research institute operates under the supervision of Korean People's Army Unit 810, a key division of Pyongyang's military, highly regarded by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Hanham said an analysis of photos of Kim, published in North Korea's state newspaper Rodong Sinmun in June, indicated the leader was responding to news of anthrax shipments to U.S. bases in South Korea from the biotech institute.

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Her analysis revealed the state-of-the-art equipment appearing in the photographs also were weapon-making facilities, South Korean news network YTN reported.

In an update on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, Hanham said CABI, a Swiss group that runs agricultural aid programs around the world, helped North Korea establish a pilot facility for exploring pesticides in 2005.

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Pesticide research in North Korea was established with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and aid included Chinese equipment to Pyongyang.

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"Unfortunately, this pilot facility could also be operated to produce anthrax and was possibly a training ground in preparation for the large-scale facility that Kim Jong Un recently toured," Hanham said.

Yonhap reported Kim Jong Un's visit to the research institute could be seen as a move to quietly threaten South Korea and the United States.

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