Key point: North Korea’s chemical-weapons threat is real and the likelihood of their use in wartime is high.
In recent years, North Korea’s chemical weapons have taken a backseat to her nuclear weapons. They are, however, no less dangerous. The deterioration of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) makes them more essential to victory than ever before. For both practical and doctrinal reasons, North Korea will almost certainly use chemical weapons in wartime, from riot control to lethal nerve gases.
Chemical weapons will be used to create a local, tactical advantage on the front lines and neutralize some advantages, such as air power. Thanks to North Korea’s prodigious missiles and artillery, they can be employed beyond the battlefield as well. North Korea will likely attack South Korea (ROK) through its depth with chemical weapons, from the Demilitarized Zone to Busan.
The vast number of delivery systems would make shutting down the KPA chemical threat impossible during wartime.
North Korean Chemical-Weapons Doctrine:
North Korea parses weapons of mass destruction into different usage categories. Nuclear weapons are a strategic deterrent meant to guarantee the security of the Kim dynasty. Northern nukes likely have no operational role in a wartime scenario, since their usage would cause South Korea and the United States to topple the North Korean government.
Chemical weapons, on the other hand, do have an operational role. North Korean military forces train to operate in a chemical environment on a regular basis, and North Korea manufactures its own chemical protective gear and detection systems, some of which have been found bound for Syria.
Chemical weapons would be used in a number of ways, but the primary goal is the suppression of enemy defenses, allowing the KPA to overcome ROK and U.S. forces. Troops fight less effectively when in chemical protective gear, and defenses are dispersed to mitigate the effects of chemical attack.
Given the unpredictability of the battlefield and chemical weapons in particular, North Korean planners will use them as early in the war as possible, when their overall picture of the battlefield is at its maximum. As the war progresses and uncertainty mounts, chemical weapons use will become less productive and even counterproductive.
Types of Chemical Agents: