A North Korean soldier who defected to South Korea this year has reportedly been found to have anthrax antibodies in his blood.
It has added to the media panic over Pyongyang potentially developing biological weapons.
Author and human rights attorney Eric Sirotkin suggests the fear-mongering over the issue of North Korean biological weapons just makes war more likely.
RT: So far all the focus has been on North Korea's nuclear program. But in the light of this discovery, should we also be concerned about their biological weapons capability?
Eric Sirotkin: What we have to worry about is often the response to it. We should worry about biological and chemical weapons with any country that has them. Although in this situation, if you remember the lead up to the Iraq war, when the US invaded contra to its statutes, and to the UN requirements under the UN Charter, they said Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and “we have proof,” and therefore, it became one of the bases for going in and invading Iraq. And these were never found. I find it very interesting that these are in the blood of a defector because on a lot of levels, they have been concerned about chemical and biological attacks from the US. I’ve toured museums there in North Korea, where they make a big deal of how during the Korean War the US did use chemical and biological warfare. So, consequently the fact that he has antibodies in the blood may be not related to being exposed to that, but being exposed to the vaccine.
There has to be a concern that a country that is developing weapons of mass destruction. And remember, there are countries around the world that possess weapons of mass destruction, not just North Korea - the UK, France, the US, Russia, and China, for example, they are seeking the means to develop other forms of WMD. In North Korean’s case, it would be particularly unsurprising after all. Here we’ve got a country that sees itself - justifiably many would argue - under threat, particularly from the US and is seeing other countries, such as Iraq, Libya, that are very publicly and under pressure given up their weapons of mass destruction… and then arguably from one perspective paid the price of giving up those weapons by them being attacked and destroyed by countries such as the US and its allies…- Charles Shoebridge, security analyst, and former UK army officer
RT: The South Korean government said there are no plans to vaccinate the general population against anthrax. Are they more concerned than they're letting on, do you think? Or do you think this is just a bit of anti-North Korean hype?
ES: I think it could be either. I think that there is no intent or no necessity to defend against these chemical weapons in South Korea at this time. No one should be looking at the issue of how many people die with the nuclear weapon, how many people die with anthrax. It kind of misses the point because what we are really facing is how do we have this regime brought into more of a mainstream with the international community, how we do that exactly through dialogue. And my concern is that by dehumanizing it even further and raising the immediate risk factor in the fear of chemical and biological weapons, we begin to grease the path for war.
There is still no hard evidence that North Korea has been producing biological weapons on a large scale, nor in a very sophisticated manner like developing warheads attached to long-range rockets…The South Korean government may have budgetary considerations because anti-biological warfare is going to be expensive, it may not like to create panic among its population. So, it has been announced by the South Korean government that vaccines will be available to the South Korean military only at the end of 2019. - Joseph Cheng, professor, political analyst, Hong Kong City University
RT: If it is confirmed the North does have biological weapons, could we see even more international pressure, more sanctions on the country?
ES: I don’t really know how we get to more sanctions. And sanctions are not diplomacy. I said that many times that I think that we have to step out of that basis, but I think that these weapons in the hands of the North Koreans who have demonstrated a lot of rhetorical angst and are developing weapons are of concern to the international community. The idea that the US has shipped anthrax to South Korea - this is a messy area; it is clear that the North Koreans likely immunize their soldiers to a feared attack even for purposes of maybe propaganda by using the US as the evil country that is going to use biological weapons on them. So, consequently, who has, who doesn’t have, when it is coming, how it could happen, get the population scared, get them seeing this is immediate, can lead to dangerous consequences. I urge the international community to use it as a further basis to require the parties to sit down, talk, negotiate…