The threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons, missiles and satellites have recently received well-deserved attention. But there is more — North Korea has other dangerous, stealthy weapons, biological agents that can be used anonymously.
We were attacked in 2001 with one such stealthy biological weapon — anthrax. It killed a few innocent Americans, and resulted in a billion dollar cleanup. The FBI needed four years to identify the terrorist — an American scientist, if they got it right.
Anthrax is limited in effect — those who inhale the spores may die without antibiotics, but are unlikely to infect others. Far more dangerous are contagious pathogens — infectious agents that spread naturally from person to person. Their death toll increases exponentially as the disease spreads. Imagine a flu — influenza — that kills half of those infected!
Discussions of biological weapons usually address how hard it is to “weaponize” the pathogens. For military use, weaponization is a requirement — agents must have predictable effects, they must be safe to store, easy to deploy, and subject to tight command control.
This was once achieved on a huge scale by the USSR, in the largest and most dangerous bio-weapons program in history — Biopreparat. Missile warheads containing anthrax, plague, and smallpox were ready to be aimed at our cities. The Soviets planned to first attack with nuclear weapons, followed by biological weapons against the weakened survivors.