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Microbes by the ton: Officials see weapons threat as North Korea gains biotech expertise

11:30, Monday, 11 December, 2017
Microbes by the ton: Officials see weapons threat as North Korea gains biotech expertise

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was underway on a biological weapon. The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away. North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification, according to U.S. and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.

Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un’s government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

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