“During the past 40 years and more, North Korea has consistently pursued expanding its nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) programs with impressive single-mindedness and determination and fully in line with its national philosophy of juche,” wrote Joseph Bermudez Jr., chief analytics officer of AllSource Analysis, through blog 38 North of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
“Available information indicates that North Korea possesses -- or will soon possess -- operational nuclear weapons and continues to develop such weapons.”
The think tank report also shed light on the North’s continuous efforts to expand its biological and chemical programs and longstanding efforts to roll out more advanced chemical weapons. It raised possibilities over the existence of an extensive chemical weapons program with a significant inventory of such weapons.
It called for awareness and understanding of NBC R&D infrastructures, saying it is “essential in mitigating NBC weapons usage during periods of instability” as North Korea has “deliberately built its NBC infrastructures in extreme secrecy ... undertaken camouflage, concealment and deception operations to mask the NBC infrastructure.”
Bermudez speculated 100-150 entities and 9,000-15,000 personnel are directly involved in North Korea’s nuclear research and development projects. The number is based on the South Korean Ministry of National Defense’s 2009 statement that it had identified 100 nuclear-related locations scattered within North Korea and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan’s past remark requesting Seoul’s compensation for the layoff of the North’s 3,000 engineers at nuclear facilities.
The report proves another tricky task for South Korea with President Moon Jae-in’s ongoing struggles to reopen inter-Korean peace talks, while trying not to overstep the line drawn by the US and international community.
Moon is also gearing up for the upcoming bilateral summit with US counterpart Donald Trump on June 29-30 in Washington, where diplomatic discussions on Pyongyang’s nuclear issue is expected to be inevitable.
“Our fundamental stance is that we will employ sanctions, pressure, dialogue and all other means to resolve North Korea’s nuclear program. Talks would be possible under certain conditions that they have a clear resolve for denuclearization,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who officially took office on Monday said.
“I make it clear that if North Korea ceases additional nuclear and missile provocations, we could come forward for dialogue without any conditions. I urge the North to respond,” Moon said Thursday.
Meanwhile, North Korea on Monday asked South Korea to stop meddling in its nuclear talks with Washington, calling Seoul “a mere puppet of the US.” The comment was reportedly released via North Korean propaganda website Urimizokkiri.
South Korea lashed back at Pyongyang by reaffirming its position in the talks and urged the North to halt all its nuclear and missile provocations to walk on a path toward better inter-Korean relations.
“As six countries were parties to the six-party denuclearization talks, North Korea’s nuclear issue is not a matter only for the United States and the North,” Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson of the Ministry of Unification said in a press briefing Monday. “It is an international issue and South Korea is also a stakeholder.”
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)