Rumor: North Korea Planning Biological Attack on the G-20 Summit

North Korea is trying to launch a biochemical attack against the South prior to the G20 Summit in Seoul in November, a conservative activist claimed Thursday citing a North Korean source. Choi Sung-yong of the group Family Assembly Abducted to North Korea said the North is preparing to send 20 different deadly biochemical weapons attached to balloons and parachutes across the border. He said the campaign is led by Gen. Kim Kyok-sik, who commands the North’s frontline fourth corps, at the orders of leader Kim Jong-il’s heir apparent Jong-un.

Choi said the story came from “an active soldier in the North Korean Army.” Kim Kyok-sik was chief of the General Staff of the People’s Army before being demoted to his current post and is thought to have masterminded the torpedo attack on the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan. [Chosun Ilbo]

Choi’s source also tells him that that recent flood of anti-personnel mines that floated across the DMZ was sent down river intentionally, also on the orders of Kim Jong Eun (within a year, I predict Mike Chinoy and Selig Harrison will be trying to tell us that Jong-Eun is a reformer). On that point, I’d only say that North Korea seems to have record-breaking floods ever year. This year is no exception to that rule, and yet we have this unprecedented southward drift of explosives. And really, exactly how many mines would an army ordinarily bury right along a river bank that would just happen to wash away? I’d call this one suspicious but not proven.

“The source said the frontline fourth corps is collecting mines from all over North Korea, not only in Hwanghae Province where the fourth corps is located but from as far afield as North Hamgyong Province. It floated the mines down intentionally but blamed it on floods,” Choi claimed.

Asked about the claim, a National Intelligence Service spokesman was noncommittal, saying, “It’s possible to imagine a number of scenarios, but we can’t draw any conclusions at the moment.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to comment.

The method of delivery certainly is an interesting coincidence, given North Korea’s possession of missiles, artillery, special forces, and other means of delivery.

Is this true? Hell if I know. But if you’d have asked me six months ago if North Korea was capable of sending a submarine across the NLL to torpedo a South Korean warship, I’d have said “no.” Recently, the quality of North Korea’s decision-making has been so consequentially awful, I incline toward the theory that Kim Jong Il has lost his capacity to think rationally, though the desire to raise tensions before Kim Jong Eun consolidates his succession could be a rational explanation for wanting to provoke a limited war.

So are even the North Koreans capable of trying something like this? I think so. They must have known they’d be prime suspects in the Cheonan attack, and despite the overwhelming evidence of their complicity, they still got 30% of South Koreans, Russia, and China to buy into their denial. In short, I think we’ve reached a stage at which deterrence has failed, Kim Jong Il is taking leave of his senses and his mortality, and North Korea is capable of just about anything. On balance, however, it’s just as likely that the rumor is false, or intentionally planted by the North Koreans themselves to try to disrupt the summit.

The definition of “international terrorism” in the U.S. Code includes acts that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion. President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008 to reward it for giving up its nuclear weapons. As of last week, President Obama saw no particular reason to disturb that decision.


  1. Interestingly enough, this rather ominous story got some play in today’s Chinese newspapers, along with some separate and guarded analysis of the Lee Myung-bak speech at Guanghwamun. I know you give them very little credence, but at least the Chinese leaders in their own glacial way are giving themselves a bit of wiggle room or strategic ambiguity in the event they need to turn on the North Koreans at some point. Nobody, especially the economically-obsessed Chinese leadership, likes the idea of the DPRK wafting poison on the G20.

    This same change in describing North Korea openly as a problem and possible threat seemed to be reflected in leading Chinese voice on NK Zhu Feng’s recent remarks, which included some discussion about China planning to “basically work through the UN in the event of a North Korean collapse.” Talking about this stuff openly used to be taboo. JoongAng Ilbo carried a summary of Zhu’s remarks which I thought was trashy and a bit misleading so I went ahead and translated everything from the Chinese on my own (normally useless and undoubtedly Chi-Com approved) site. I am still waiting, by the way, for my thank you card to arrive from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

    Perhaps more interesting to you is the fact that your blog is open at the moment for readers in China. What a nice suprise! Perhaps some Chinese bloggers will be able to take an interest in the vast content you have been making steadily available for years now and push the debate forward here, which is what I think it’s all about.

  2. Adam, if the Mayumi KAL bombing case of 1987 is to be believed, then KJI’s m.o. is to commit such acts well before the foreign dignitaries arrive. Effectively, to embarrass the ROK leadership and to scare people off.

  3. Which, given the South Korean obsession for hosting international events of almost any hue pretty much all the time, means that any such international event can be said to have been the rationale behind one provocation or another.

    G-20 prompts sinking of Cheonan? Unlikely, but, by Kushibo’s logic and the 1987 timeline, not impossible.

  4. chris wrote:

    G-20 prompts sinking of Cheonan? Unlikely, but, by Kushibo’s logic and the 1987 timeline, not impossible.

    Perhaps the hint of skepticism at the official take on the 1987 bombing went unnoticed, but I can hardly take credit for the timeline or the logic behind that official take.

  5. Indeed not. My wording bad.

    Anyway, if Kim really has decided that a bio-attack on the G-20 is a good idea in terms of reaching any of his goals, ever, then he really has lost the plot. Not impossible, note, but unlikely.

    I call foul, and am filing this particular claim next to the one about the North Korean soccer coach toiling on a building site.

  6. I call foul, and am filing this particular claim next to the one about the North Korean soccer coach toiling on a building site.

    A job as a brickie sounds quite good. Definitely not nearly as bad as going to Camp-15.

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