North Korea suspected of developing sophisticated chemical weapons

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (UPI) — North Korea is suspected of stockpiling deadly chemical weapons but the international community must continue to engage Pyongyang, said the chief of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

During a security forum in Seoul on Thursday, Ahmet Uzumcu said North Korea is one of four states that is not a signatory to the anti-proliferation Chemical Weapons Convention, Yonhap reported.

That doesn’t mean, however, North Korea should be kept in isolation.

The European Union and the United Nations have each requested talks with Pyongyang regarding the issue of chemical weapons, but they were all turned down, Uzumcu said, adding the OPCW has yet to successfully make contact with North Korean authorities.

It is difficult to assess the state of North Korea’s chemical weapons because Pyongyang is not an OPCW member state, Uzumcu said.

But the materials North Korea has disclosed indicate Pyongyang has been operating a highly developed chemical weapons program.

South Korea’s military has previously estimated North Korea retains about 2,500 tons of chemical weapons.

Uzumcu said his top priority on North Korea is to continue to encourage Pyongyang to speak to his organization and to eventually sign the convention.

If North Korea joins the chemical weapons convention, a weapons destruction program could be drafted and put into action, after the OPCW council approves the measures, Uzumcu said.

The OPCW was established in 1997 and won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for investigations into the use of the nerve gas sarin in the Syrian civil war.

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