Report: Chemical arms tests on political prisoners

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Report: Chemical arms tests on political prisoners

North Korea used political prisoners to test deadly chemical weapons and provided them to several countries in the Middle East, according to a U.S. report.

The 38 North, a division of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, updated a report titled “North Korea’s Chemical Warfare Capabilities” on its Web site based on the author’s interviews with North Korean defectors and officials worldwide for the past 25 years.

A defector, who identified himself by the pseudonym Kwon Kyok, said he worked as a security official at Detention Camp 22, where he saw healthy prisoners put inside glass chambers and gassed while technicians observed their deaths.

Im Chun-yong, another defector, said similar experiments took place on an island in the Yellow Sea.

“These reports are extremely difficult to confirm,” the report said. “Taken as a whole, and within the context of what is currently known about the treatment of political prisoners within the DPRK [North Korea], such reports suggest a long-standing DPRK policy of low-level lethal testing of chemical agents on unwilling human subjects.”

The report estimated the capability of North Korea’s annual production of chemical agents at 4,500 tons, suggesting it could be increased to 12,000 tons in wartime. Pyongyang’s current inventory of chemical weapons is believed to be in the form of mustard, phosgene and sarin gases and V-agents, which persistently linger on clothing and other objects.

Facilities for producing those chemical weapons would be the No. 279 Factory, located in Pyongwon County, South Pyongan Province, according to the report. Products from the factory reportedly are shipped to the Maram Materials Corporation and Chiha-ri Chemical Corporation.

Decontamination of “people, equipment, clothing and water of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons” is known to be conducted at the 398 Institute, the report said.

The institute and factory are both under control of the Equipment Department of the Nuclear-Chemical Defense Bureau, which is reportedly under the chief of the general staff of the North Korean military. Chemical weapons made in North Korea have been repeatedly shipped to Egypt, Iran, Libya and Syria, the report said.

“Most of these reports center around the sales of defensive equipment, manufacturing technology, assistance in developing chemical warheads for Scud class ballistic missiles, and development of chemical warfare production infrastructure,” the report said. “Reports originating in the Middle East indicate that there was an acceleration of such efforts beginning in early 2007.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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