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U.S. monitoring North Korea, others for potential chemical weapons proliferation: Pentagon

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Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, is seen answering questions during a daily press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, is seen answering questions during a daily press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

The United States continues to keep a close watch on North Korea and others for possible use or proliferation of illegal chemical and biological weapons, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder also said the U.S. will take all necessary measures to hold any country accountable should they use or spread such weapons.

“When it comes to chem-bio capabilities worldwide, it’s something that the Department of Defense monitors very closely,” the defense department spokesperson told a press briefing.

The remark comes after Ian Watson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, highlighted the increasing threats posed by chemical and biological weapons of China and Russia.

When asked about possible cooperation between China, Russia and North Korea, Ryder said it was something that is definitely “concerning” and “something that we will continue to keep a close eye on.”

North Korea is believed to possess one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Pyongyang also used a nerve agent to kill leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother, Kim Jong-nam, at a Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017.

Ryder said the U.S. will continue to work closely with its allies in the region to counter any potential proliferation of chemical and biological weapons.

“When it comes to things like chemical-biological weapons, there are a variety of tools at our disposal to address,” the department spokesperson said, adding, “Those can include non-military capabilities, for example, sanctions and things like that.”

The Pentagon spokesperson also noted the U.S. continues to be in discussions with South Korean defense companies to purchase ammunition, but declined to comment when asked if those shells could become part of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.

“So we have been in discussions, and we have talked about this publicly before, with Korea in terms of purchasing non-government ammunition from the defense industrial base,” Ryder said.

“Certainly, South Korea maintains a very robust, very capable defense industry, and so [we are] in discussions with the South Korean government in terms of purchasing ammunition to replenish U.S. stocks. But beyond that, I don’t have any additional information,” he added.

Yonhap