Regarding The Prospect of North Korea Causing

Disruption with A Biological Weapon

by

James M Wilson V, MD FAAP
Director, Nevada Medical Intelligence Center
School of Community Health Science
University of Nevada-Reno

The prospect of armed conflict with North Korea weighs heavily on all of our minds right now, particularly given that we appear to be dealing with a regime seemingly impervious to diplomacy and international sanctions. While the world is (and should be) primarily concerned with scenarios involving nuclear and conventional weapons engagements, it is worthwhile to pause and consider other scenarios whispered over beers among analysts.

In my world, we fret over the specter of biological weapons. We fret because history has shown us other recalcitrant, isolated regimes who have ignored instruments such as the 1925 Geneva Protocol and 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). A quick review of the official BWC website does not reassure us that North Korea is a committed signatory (see the number of meetings they have attended in recent years, for example). Most analysts in health security and biodefense consider North Korea to have an offensive biological weapons program. Indeed, history has shown us political instruments like the Geneva Protocol and BWC have proven un-enforceable. Examples include the Germans and Japanese in World War II, the former Soviet Union’s biological warfare program, and recently re-examined allegations of mass-scale biological weapon deployments in Rhodesia in the late 1970s .

Biological weapons can be deployed in a surreptitious manner. While classic military strategists focus on aerosol deployment on the battlefield (or, in the case of the Koreas, across the DMZ) to target military forces, the smart bioweaponeer might take a page from the Japanese Imperial Army’s Unit 731 . Unit 731 viewed biological weapons as a means to disrupt, confuse, or stress the enemy’s civil infrastructure prior to attack with conventional weapons. Under this kind of scenario, any unusual infectious disease activity in South Korea should prompt rapid verification and response.

However, the world continues to have several major problems in a bio-warfare environment. One is determining attribution. While it is generally believed that any confirmed offensive biological weapon deployment would be answered with a nuclear response, this is in reality a difficult policy to execute. The reality is the world of public health has shown us a disturbing inability to proper assess risk, communicate that risk in a well-considered, balanced manner to stakeholders, conduct effective surveillance and response operations, and clearly demonstrate claimed “lessons learned” have indeed been… learned. Recent uncomfortable examples include the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, Ebola disaster, Zika crisis, and the currently unfolding antimicrobial resistance disaster. Credibility in the public health enterprise has been badly eroded, and the world currently lacks an effective health security intelligence system coupled to an effective response mechanism. Biodefense and the instruments of monitoring compliance of the BWC are utterly reliant on public health infrastructure. That infrastructure has shown us, for decades now, that it is overwhelmed, slow to act, and highly resistant to calls for change. In the context of a scenario of North Korean “biological mischief” conducted in South Korea, this is a grave liability.

From the civil medical infrastructure perspective, we have observed South Korea’s public health behave in ways suggestive of lessons not learned in the wake of SARS. During the emergence of SARS, the US military raised serious concerns about whether effective surveillance and response could be conducted in the South Korean civil medical and public health infrastructure… and how that might affect combat effectiveness. This concern was validated during the introduction of MERS to South Korea. During that period, officials were slow to recognize the initial appearance of MERS in South Korea and information was suppressed to avoid anxiety, which impaired effective response. This is a common, unfortunate behavior among Ministries of Health throughout the world when confronted with unusual, non-routine outbreaks.

One may reasonably surmise that the South Korean government will behave in a similar manner in the hypothetical context of an outbreak of unusual, non-routine infectious disease, especially if that disease is associated with unusually high morbidity or mortality. And, particularly if questions of possible biological weapon deployments are raised. As seen with both SARS and MERS, it is impossible for any government to keep these types of crises hidden for long. The public eventually discovers rumors of the situation and takes matters into their own hands, often in response to their government’s lack of transparency. While rare, civil unrest and incendiary violence are potential outcomes in this kind of situation. It is important to note that state failure, however, has not been documented in known history due solely to an outbreak of disease.

So the uncomfortable scenario of a surreptitious deployment of rapidly transmissible disease in a high population dense environment like Seoul indeed could cause a high degree of disruption and distraction in an already politically charged environment. It would be naïve to think that South Korea’s public health and medical infrastructure would behave any differently than we have seen thus far: there will be information suppression and disorganized response with potential for civil unrest. As we saw with the Amerithrax investigation and the aforementioned Rhodesia anthrax epidemic, there is real potential for tremendous delays in proving attribution if North Korea actually did intentionally release a disease in South Korea. This of course assumes attribution could be proven at all. The reality is, there may be little the international community could do to stop such an event from happening, and there may be little the international community could do to prove attribution.

In summary, the world should continue to prioritize the obvious threat of nuclear engagement with North Korea, but also be mindful of alternative scenarios where North Korea could still cause tremendous mischief in the region, including initiating a biological attack!

 

Registration will close at 9 am on September 11th

Confronting North Korea

With

Ambassador Christopher Hill

 

With a record number of attendees already registered we will be closing registration at 9 am on Monday September 11th.

The Sands Regency, Tuesday September 12, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile was a major step forward in its growing capability to deliver ICBMs with nuclear warheads as far as the Western United States. The U.S. and its allies have pursued a number of steps to eliminate or at least restrict Pyongyang’s capability to deliver weapons armed with nuclear warheads over great distances, but nothing has worked. America and allies in the region have tried to fashion a diplomatic, negotiated agreement, but North Korea seems uninterested. The U.S. has also pursued sanctions against Pyongyang, and while they have had some domestic impact, they have been insufficient to change the course the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, is pursuing. Nor surprising, the Pentagon is drawing up plans for the implementation of various military options, alternatives that now seem more possible given North Korean intransigence and President Trump’s threat to bring “Fire and Fury” on that country.

President Trump has also tried to persuade China, the one country that would seem to have leverage over North Korea, to join in the sanctions regime and to put additional diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang. Beijing seems uninterested in assisting in restricting North Korean aggression and in opening up the country to foreign influences. In fact, new data shows that China’s trade with its North Korean neighbor has increased substantially this year, including sending much needed food, fuel and machinery to sustain the North Korean economy. China clearly is unwilling to do Washington’s bidding and put pressure on Pyongyang.

This makes the “military option” that much more likely. Such a preemptive operation would likely include a “surgical strike” on North Korean missile sites to remove its capability of launching ICBMs. The attack would likely include strikes against the country’s political leadership, including Kim Jong Un. In addition, the US/allied preemption would likely include a massive cyber attack designed to destroy the North’s communications systems and military command and control. However, such a strike would probably lead to Pyongyang hitting back hard with thousands of artillery rounds landing in South Korea and, possibly, Japan. That would likely kill hundreds of thousands, including U.S. troops stationed in both countries.  In sum, there are no good options for dealing with an intransigent North Korean regime, but a decision regarding a preemptive strike is likely to be forthcoming soon.

Ambassador Chris Hill is uniquely qualified to speak to this challenge. Hill is the former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, during which time he served as the head of the U.S. delegation to the Six Party Talks on the North Korea nuclear issue. He has also served as the American Ambassador to Iraq, Poland, and Macedonia, and as Senior Director on the staff of the National Security Council. He currently is the Dean of the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

Click here to RSVP

 Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

Summary of the Presentation on the USS Zumwalt

with

Captain Scott Tait

Commanding Officer, the USS Zumwalt

NSF participants were treated to an excellent presentation on the U.S. navy’s newest class of guided missile destroyers, the USS Zumwalt, by the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Scott Tait. The Zumwalt is currently in a maintenance period, completing integration of its weapon systems and will begin an extensive, comprehensive “first in class” test program next year. The Zumwalt is intended to serve as a “multi-mission stealth ship” to conduct missions that include sea control, power projection, command and control, and support of forces ashore. The Zumwalt is designed for offensive operations against submarines, surface ships, aircraft and land-based forces.  These ships were originally designed to replace the Iowa-class battleships.

The Zumwalt will operate in an intensive cyber environment in the future. The ship has a low radar cross-section and is much more difficult to detect on radar. It has a “wave-piercing tumblehome hull form” whose sides slope inward above the waterline, which will reduce the radar cross-section.  The destroyer’s “angular build” makes it much more difficult to detect than the average ship of that class. Despite being 40% larger than an Arleigh-class destroyer, the radar cross-section is more like that of a small fishing boat!

The Zumwalt carries a formidable array of weaponry that includes vertically launched missiles, gun systems, and a variety of embarked air, surface and undersea systems.

Captain Tait’s PowerPoint is not released for public distribution. But here is a link to the Navy’s own video on the Zumwalt that we are sure you will enjoy:

Click here: USS Zumwalt

Thanks again to Captain Scott Tait for this great presentation, and we look forward to welcoming him back to the NSF again after the Zumwalt is deployed with the fleet.

Why US Mid-East Peace Plans Always Fail

  • By Jeff Saperstein

Special Analysis provided for the NSF

  • There is no guarantee that a guarantee is a guarantee

—Menachem Begin

Once again we see the fool’s errand that is the US push to clinch the deal for a comprehensive Israel/Palestine Two State Peace Solution. Doomed to failure for a simple reason.

Most Israelis have no appetite to take risks with their security that neither the Palestinians nor the Americans can guarantee: no matter what is signed on paper, Israelis will want full oversight over any Palestinian borders, the freedom to interdict weapons, and to pre-empt terrorist plots and activities wherever they emerge. Every Prime Minister from any political party has insisted Israel would not relinquish full security authority for the borders of a Palestinian State, nor will they allow the Palestinians to sign military treaties and alliances with other states. Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are Israel’s realities.

Missed by most media reports is the fact that the countries that have the least desire to see a Palestinian State on the West Bank are Jordan, or in Gaza, Egypt. The West Bank would be taken over by Hamas in days and the threat to Jordan will be real. Egypt is already battling the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS in the Sinai and has been even more restrictive on Gaza than has Israel.

The truism in the Middle East is: “What the leaders say is not what they believe, and what they do is neither what they say nor what they believe”. The alliance between Israel, Egypt and Jordan is real, because the Jordanians know that Israel is the only ally that can assure the Hashemite King’s stability, and the Egyptians know that Israel is the one safeguard to help them establish stability in the Sinai.

So if we want to understand how Israelis perceive their vital interests, there are several important historical precedents that inform Israeli opinion and policy.

Israelis must be responsible for their own defense and be constantly vigilant. 

The most important Israeli speech that you may have never heard about was a simple eulogy by Moshe Dayan, Commander of the Southern Front in 1956. Roi Rotberg,  a young officer, was ambushed, killed and mutilated by Gaza infiltrators one mile within Israel’s border.

“For we know that if the hope of our destruction is to perish, we must be, morning and evening, armed and ready…

But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms”

Need I say that no UN Security Council Resolution, nor a 70 country Paris Conference sans Israel, would ever have the slightest chance of persuading the Israelis that others can be endowed to represent Israel’s existential trepidations.

No International or bilateral agreements can be trusted

Most of us alive at the time remember the lightening Israel victory in June of 1967. The Israelis also remember May, 1967. Israel waited three weeks after the Egyptians ordered the removal of UN peace-keepers in the Sinai, the massing of troops on their border, and the closing of the straits of Tiran. Abba Eban went to the supposed guarantors of Israeli security, the United Nations. U Thant, Secretary General of the UN, removed peace-keepers with no discussion. When reminded of the French guarantees from 1956, DeGaulle famously replied , “That was 1956, this is 1967.”France was Israel’s main arms supplier and DeGaulle slapped an arms embargo on Israel to gain favor with the Arabs. Lyndon Johnson, when reminded of Eisenhower’s guarantee that he would lead an armada to break any closing of the Straits of Tiran, refused to act, because he had a Vietnam disaster on his hands and did not think Congress would approve a military adventure in the Middle East. Israel learned in May, 1967, and again in October, 1973, when no European ally would allow US cargo planes to refuel in US bases at Europe for fear of offending the Arabs, that guarantees do not matter

Pre-emption works

Israel destroyed the Egyptian Air Force with a pre-emptive strike in June, 1967, guaranteeing a quick victory. In 1981 Saddam Hussein was building a nuclear bomb facility (designed and contracted by, of course, France).  Israel destroyed it with no prior warning or consultation with the US. Cap Weinberger, US Secretary of Defense, was outraged.  In 1992, after Desert Storm, Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense, sent a thank you note to Ehud Barak, Israel’s Secretary of Defense thanking him for the strike. The US did not have to face Iraqi nuclear weapons. In 2006, Israel pre-emptively destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility. Imagine what we would face today if Syria had nuclear weapons.

Want to predict the future?  Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has warned that Iran was strengthening its foothold in its ally Syria. Israel was watching developments and would act against any threat.

“Our policy is clear: We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hezbollah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security,”

Iran is Israel’s avowed enemy and Hezbollah and Hamas are Iran’s proxies. That fact will drive any Israeli considerations in peace talks and its actions to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from threatening Israel’s Northern border.

Most pernicious is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions effort popular in the Far-Left and in Europe. The sole purpose of BDS is to eliminate the sovereign Jewish State of Israel. The Israeli Jews have offered partition of the land five times: 1937, 1948, 1967, 2000, and 2008. Palestinians rejected the acceptance of Israel on any boundaries, so accusations of occupation and settlements is a ruse for the failure of Palestinians to come to terms with reality and build their own State, not just destroy Israel.

Courageous Palestinians and Israelis are working together for economic prosperity, equal jurisprudence, and security, so civic institutions will provide Palestinians a better future by working with, not against Israel. BDS does none of that, and is a hateful strategy mostly harming Palestinians, because they are the beneficiaries of closer ties to Israel.

So, let’s not rush to close a deal that cannot be fulfilled. Support Israeli Palestinian efforts to nation build and create economic opportunity and strengthen self-government. If Israel’s security considerations are taken as the first priority, other conciliation can happen.

  • Jeff Saperstein is an NSF member and contributor based in Marin. He is a career coach and lecturer at San Francisco State University. He frequently visits and has led trips to Israel.

 

Colleagues: We apologize for the change in registration procedures and the temporary new locale for our NSF programs. We know that the RSVP mechanism is not accepting new reservations, so for those who wish to attend and haven’t signed up, please email Dr. Jim Megquier at megquier@charter.net. We need to have that by Tuesday evening. Please note that we can only accommodate registered attendees at this event.  Ty

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This is the final announcement for the presentation on….

The USS Zumwalt

The Navy’s Stealth Guided Missile Destroyer

with

Captain Scott Tait

The Sands, Friday August 18, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

The Guided Missile Destroyer, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), was conceived more than 20 years ago as a land attack ship, primarily to replace the Iowa-class battleships in supporting amphibious landings. A key part of its design charter included innovation in propulsion, weapons, signatures and manning. The program to design and build these ships has been turbulent, but the result is a warship with the most modern technologies integrated in a single hull since HMS Dreadnought went to sea in 1906!

The USS Zumwalt is the first of this new class of warships.  Although originally designed with a primary focus on land attack, she is a multi-mission combatant with potent offensive capabilities against air, surface, subsurface and land targets. The Zumwalt will bring significant advantages in the Navy’s traditional missions of sea control and power projection.

Captain Scott Tait will discuss USS Zumwalt, the benefits her innovations are bringing to our Navy, and the way forward for these already-iconic warships. Tait is the Commanding Officer of the USS Zumwalt.  His sea tours have included operations in the western and southern Pacific, Middle East, and Europe, as well as shore commands with the US European Command, the Pacific Fleet staff, and the Joint Staff (J5, Asia).  He holds Masters degrees from Stanford University and from the US Naval War College.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.
Please RSVP by clicking HERE.  For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.