Ex-US diplomat: Pyongyang may sell chemical weapons to terror groups

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 02 Mar 2017

WASHINGTON: The use of the VX nerve agent in the killing of Kim Jong-nam (pix), the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, raises the dangerous specter of a cash-strapped Pyongyang ultimately selling such a chemical weapon to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, a former senior diplomat warned.

The use of VX added to mounting evidence that North Korea was behind Jong-nam's killing in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

VX is a chemical agent listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations and its use is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which the North is not a signatory.

Eight North Koreans have been named as suspects, but the North has denied its involvement.

"The specter of chemical weapons proliferation, of VX in the hands of terrorists, now looms ever larger," James Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state, said in an article in the Politico.

"The apparent shipment from North Korea to Malaysia of VX - a lethal substance banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention - is a brazen violation of international law despite the fact that North Korea is not a signatory to the convention," Yonhap quoted him as saying.

Rubin also noted that China's suspension of coal imports from North Korea left Pyongyang without one of its biggest sources of hard currency while al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have worked hard to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

"It was precisely this kind of frightening marriage of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that the Bush administration considered a key justification for the war in Iraq.

"It would be reasonable to expect President Donald Trump and his team to be working overtime to prevent such a possibility.

"This is no partisan matter," he said.

"While we may not have evidence of Pyongyang's intention to proliferate in the chemical weapons area, we do know they have transferred advanced missile technology and possibly the technology that allowed Syria to build a nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israel several years ago," he said.

Rubin said that although the North is the first foreign policy test the administration of President Donald Trump, there are no indications that Trump and his team understand the seriousness of the situation.

"Every new administration has to deal with a foreign policy crisis of some type in its early days," he said.

"It's the proliferation risk from North Korea that should worry us. Unless the president and his team act soon, his administration is likely to fail its first test, and in doing so, fail to live up to its responsibility to protect and defend the people of the United States," he added. - Bernama

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