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Report: U.N. agency was assisting North Korea file nerve gas patent request

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: U.N. agency was assisting North Korea file nerve gas patent request
North Korea was receiving help from a U.N. agency in Geneva on a patent application for a toxic nerve gas, according to Fox News. North Korea was linked to the use of a different chemical after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam in February. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

May 15 (UPI) -- A United Nations agency may have been assisting North Korea with an international patent application for a chemical that can be used to make Tabun, an extremely toxic nerve agent banned from the country.

Fox News reported Monday the World Intellectual Property Organization had declared the North Korean application fit "to apply for and be granted a patent."

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North Korea began the patent process in November 2015, but since then the U.N.'s Panel of Experts on North Korea received "no record of any communication from WIPO to the Committee or the Panel regarding such a serious patent application," according to Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the international U.N. expert team.

WIPO offers a variety of services including financially meaningful help, research on patent overlaps, and stimulating demand for any patents.

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But a contact at WIPO also told Fox, "WIPO is not a patent-granting authority. Its role in handling these applications is to ensure that they conform to the procedural requirements" of the 152-member Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT.

North Korea is a PCT signatory.

In 2012, Fox News found WIPO shipped U.S.-manufactured computers and computer servers to North Korea and Iran.

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Miranda Brown, a former advisor to the agency's current director, Francis Gurry, was forced to leave WIPO for drawing attention to the computer shipments, according to Fox.

Sodium cyanide can be used to make chemical weapons, including cyanide gas.

Shipments of the chemical to North Korea are banned under U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution 1718, adopted in 2006.

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In February, North Korea was linked to the fatal poisoning of the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un at a Malaysian airport.

The chemical used in the attack may have been VX, a deadly chemical that can be used as a nerve agent.

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