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Last month, the global community had a watchful eye over events unfolding in North Korea. The North’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, ramped up its acts of aggression and blew up a joint liaison office with the South in the border town of Kaesong. It came after hundreds of thousands of balloons landed in the North from the South.
Each balloon held anti-Kim leaflets thought to have been drawn up by non-governmental activists.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, reacted furiously, branding those responsible as “human scum”.
A report by the New York Post suggests the leaflets contained “dirty, insulting” depictions of Kim’s wife that led to the explosive retaliation.
Provocative images of Ri Sol Ju sparked “serious outrage” in Pyongyang, according to Agence France-Presse.
Alexander Matsegora, the Russian Ambassador to North Korea told Russian media outlet TASS: “The leaflets bore a special kind of dirty, insulting propaganda, aimed at the leader’s spouse.”
He said they were Photoshopped “in such a low-grade way” that they became the “last straw” for the Hermit Kingdom.
Yo Jong appeared equally outraged, calling the South “the enemy” before cutting a telecommunications line that had been in daily use between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Many have since called the string of aggression a mere ploy to draw attention to the North and reopen diplomatic negotiations with the US.
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This appeared affirmed when Kim announced the North would be scaling back its “military action” after having taken the “prevailing situation” into consideration.
The North’s willingness to oscillate between aggression and reason has, in the view of several experts, placed it in a dangerous region.
Fears largely centre around the country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Yet, as journalist Yochi Dreazen in his 2018 Vox report on North Korea explained, the dictatorship has in recent years become something of a hoarder of chemical and biological weapons.
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The country is thought to have in its stores smallpox, yellow fever, anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, and even plague.
Speaking to Mr Dreazen, Andrew Webber, formerly the assistant secretary of defence for nuclear, chemical, and biological defence programmes, revealed how the North would likely use its bio-weaponry to cause lasting damage on masses of innocent people.
He said: “We would expect to see cocktails of fast-acting biological agents designed to stop troops in their tracks and regular infectious agents that would take more time to kill people.
“There would be a significant military impact, and a significant psychological one.
“It’s hard to overstate just how frightening these types of weapons are.”
Added to this, a 2017 report from Harvard University, which noted that minute quantities of anthrax “equivalent to a few bottles of wine” could kill up to half the population of a densely populated city like Seoul.
The paper went on to speculate that it is “theoretically” possible that North Korea could fire missiles containing anthrax into the South.
It also claimed it could use drones to spray lethal substances from the air.
North Korea is already considered highly skilled at handling deadly substances.
In 2017, two women trained by North Korean intelligence agents killed Kim’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam while the 45-year-old walked through an airport in Malaysia, smearing his face with VX.
Both women were later freed after Doan Thi Huong accepted a deal on a lesser charge of “causing injury” while charges against Siti Aisyah were dropped in March 2019.
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