The North Korean regime has started tests with a view to loading intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with anthrax, according to regional media reports.
Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported on Tuesday that Pyongyang had undertaken heat and pressure resistance tests, citing an intelligence source in South Korea. The spy source told the newspaper that Kim Jong Un’s regime is testing whether the biological agent can withstand temperatures of more than 7,000 degrees, the temperature that such a missile would face when coming back into Earth’s atmosphere.
Anthrax contaminates the body when spores enter it, multiplying and spreading an illness that could be fatal. Weaponized anthrax mostly infects humans through inhalation, which is the deadliest form of transmission. Skin infections of anthrax are less deadly. Inhalation anthrax has an overall death rate of 80 percent, according to data.
The source said North Korea was likely looking to load its range of ICBMs with anthrax as its nuclear-tipped missiles cannot yet reach the U.S. mainland.
On Monday, the Trump administration released its national security strategy, which warned North Korea was “pursuing chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile.”
It read: “North Korea — a country that starves its own people — has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could threaten our homeland.” Washington and Seoul have carried out joint military drills simulating and combating an attack of a biological nature.
U.S. troops stationed in South Korea have been vaccinated against anthrax for over a decade, according to the newspaper.
Tensions have continued to rise between North Korea, its regional rivals and the United States. President Donald Trump has engaged in bellicose rhetoric with the North Korean leader, who has referred to him as a “dolt.” The pair have threatened military action against the other, and fears of a conflict breaking out have risen, particularly in nearby Japan and South Korea.
South Korean scientists have been working to train artificial intelligence that can detect anthrax at fast speeds to combat any attack from its neighbor, with which it technically remains at war. Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology announced in August the creation of an algorithm that has the ability to study bacterial spores and identify the biological agent in just seconds, instead of a day, using microscopic images.
North Korea has used chemical agents in the past to conduct attacks and assassinations.