North Korean Chemical Plant Might Fuel Weapons Effort

A South Korean soldier participates in a chemical weapons response drill in Seoul last November. A massive expansion of North Korea's premier chemical complex is likely to benefit the nation's chemical weapons production efforts, concludes a new expert analysis.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
April 11, 2014, 7:10 a.m.

A massive con­struc­tion ef­fort by North Korea to ex­pand a chem­ic­al-pro­cessing com­plex might be fuel­ing a weapons pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

For the last eight years, Py­ongy­ang has been work­ing on a “ma­jor ef­fort to mod­ern­ize” the Nam­hung Youth Chem­ic­al Com­plex, the ex­pert web­site 38 North said in an im­age ana­lys­is pub­lished on Thursday. First con­struc­ted in the 1970s, the com­plex pro­duces much of the isol­ated coun­try’s fer­til­izers, in­sect­icides and herb­i­cides.

But ac­cord­ing to Ja­pan­ese and South Korean of­fi­cials — as well as North Korean de­fect­ors — the site also plays a role in the gen­er­a­tion of chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als.

The fa­cil­ity’s mod­ern­iz­a­tion “has the po­ten­tial to ma­ter­i­ally im­prove the quant­ity and qual­ity of the North Korean chem­ic­al weapons in­vent­ory,” wrote North Korean de­fense ex­pert Joseph Ber­mudez.

Though it is dif­fi­cult to de­term­ine what spe­cif­ic chem­ic­al-weapon func­tions the Nam­hung com­plex per­forms, it ap­pears the site pro­duces chem­ic­al weapon pre­curs­ors that are then trans­por­ted else­where for mix­ing and pour­ing in­to mu­ni­tions, ac­cord­ing to the 38 North ana­lys­is. The as­sess­ment is based on sur­veil­lance satel­lite pho­to­graphs, in­clud­ing some taken as re­cently as Decem­ber, as well as pub­lished North Korean pro­pa­ganda im­ages.

Ber­mudez points spe­cific­ally to the con­struc­tion of an an­thra­cite coal gas­i­fic­a­tion fa­cil­ity as be­ing likely to be­ne­fit North Korea’s chem­ic­al-weapons pro­gram. An­thra­cite coal — of which North Korea has sig­ni­fic­ant de­pos­its — is an in­gredi­ent used to make carbide. That sub­stance, in turn, is needed in the pro­duc­tion of mus­tard agent, ac­cord­ing to a 2003 ana­lys­is by the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies. An­thra­cite gas­i­fic­a­tion is also used to pro­duce fer­til­izer.

Since 2011, the an­thra­cite gas­i­fic­a­tion plant has had at least two pro­cessing lines, said 38 North, a pro­ject of the U.S.-Korea In­sti­tute at Johns Hop­kins Uni­versity.

Between 2006 and 2013, roughly 106 fa­cil­it­ies and in­dus­tri­al struc­tures were built at the chem­ic­al com­plex, “an un­pre­ced­en­ted en­deavor dur­ing a polit­ic­ally tur­bu­lent and eco­nom­ic­ally con­strained peri­od,” Ber­mudez said.

What We're Following See More »
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
12 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
THE SHAKE-UP CONTINUES
RNC’s Spicer to Work from Trump HQ
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican party will coordinate more closely going forward, with the GOP's top communicator and chief strategist Sean Spicer increasingly working out of Trump campaign headquarters, the campaign confirmed Sunday."

Source:
MORE PALACE INTRIGUE
Manafort Resigns from Trump Campaign
4 days ago
THE LATEST

In a statement released Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced that Paul Manafort has resigned as campaign chairman. The move comes after fresh questions had been raised about Manafort's work in Russia and Ukraine, and Trump brought in Stephen Bannon "as a de facto demotion for Manafort."

Source:
×