A North Korean soldier who defected to the South has been tested and found to have antibodies to anthrax — sparking fears that the rogue regime may have weaponized the deadly disease.
The soldier, who was either exposed to or vaccinated against anthrax, had developed the immunity before defecting according to South Korean authorities, reported UPI, citing a South Korean news report.
“Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year,” a South Korean intelligence official told the local news network, Channel A, on the condition of anonymity.
The official did not identify which of the four soldiers who fled the north this year had the antibodies, reported New York Post.
South Koreans are worried about the discovery of the antibodies because the disease can kill at least 80 percent of those who are exposed to the bacterium in 24 hours unless antibiotics are taken or vaccination is available, reported UPI. The South Korean military has yet to procure an anthrax vaccine.
According to the country’s Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Choi Hyun-soo, an anthrax vaccine for the South Korean military “is expected to be developed by the end of 2019,” the news station reported.
North Korea is suspected to be developing biological weapons. A number of reports have emerged that the isolated regime has begun testing an anthrax-loaded warhead for its intercontinental ballistic missile after Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted an anonymous intelligence source in Seoul.
According to the Japanese source, North Korea is carrying out heat and pressure tests meant to mimic what a warhead would undergo as it descended to the earth during the final stage of its trajectory.
The tests are meant to determine whether anthrax germs can survive at temperatures up to and above 7,000 degrees. That is the temperature an ICBM’s warhead can reach as it streaks through the atmosphere on its descent.
North Korea has vehemently denied the allegations, but past intelligence reports on the hermit nation reveal agricultural facilities with the dual-use potential to produce anthrax.
In an October report, The Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School summarized evidence that North Korea has a biological weapons program capable of producing anthrax, smallpox, and other biological agents. The regime may already possess 13 biological agents, ranging from botulism and cholera to the plague, claimed the report.
Propaganda photos of the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute released by the North Korean state media in 2015 revealed that the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute “could produce military-sized batches of [biological weapons], specifically anthrax,” read the Belfer report.
Matthew Little contributed to this report.
2017 Year in Review