A report released today said that military conflict with North Korea might lead the isolated regime to use its sizable chemical arsenal against South Korea, Reuters reported (see GSN, April 23).
Pyongyang is believed to hold between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of nerve and blister agents and would be able to deploy them via missile strikes on Seoul and other South Korean locations, according to a report by the nongovernmental International Crisis Group.
"If there is an escalation of conflict and if military hostilities break out, there is a risk that they could be used," said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based representative of the group. "In conventional terms, North Korea is weak and they feel they might have to resort to using those."
The report comes amid increasing tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile activities (see related GSN story, today). The U.N. Security Council last week approved another sanctions resolution in response to the Stalinist state's May 25 nuclear test.
The North's chemical-weapon stockpile, several decades in the making, "does not appear to be increasing, but is already sufficient to inflict massive civilian casualties on South Korea," the report says.
While the report acknowledges the North's efforts toward building a biological-weapon capability, Pinkston said he doubted if that program is viable at present.
The International Crisis Group today released a separate report on North Korea's missile capability.
That report says Pyongyang has more than 600 Scud-type missiles that could reach any target in South Korea, along with 320 of medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles that put Japan in range (Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, June 18).