Antibodies against anthrax found in the body of a defected North Korean soldier have raised fears that North Korea is developing bio-warfare capabilities.
Traces of anthrax antibodies were discovered in the system of a North Korean soldier who had defected to the South at some point in 2017, a local South Korean television station reported Tuesday.
Concerns emerged after South Korea based Channel A reported the finding about antibodies. According to the report, the defected soldier may have developed the antibodies against anthrax by either getting exposed to the virus or by receiving a vaccination.
The soldier's name and exact date of defection were not disclosed. But the defector is said to have been exposed to or vaccinated for anthrax, a serious bacterial disease, UPI reported, citing Channel A. They reportedly became immune to the disease before defection.
''Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year,'' according an unnamed South Korean official speaking to Channel A.
The news comes amid earlier reports that North Korea was beginning tests to mount anthrax onto intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US.
The tests were to determine if anthrax could handle the intense heat and pressure it would experience on an ICBM.
''North Korea has started experiments such as heat and pressure equipment to prevent anthrax from dying even at a high temperature of over 7,000 degrees generated at the time of ICBM's re-entry into the atmosphere,'' the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported, citing an unidentified person connected to South Korean intelligence services. ''In part, there is unconfirmed information that it has already succeeded in such experiments.''
Similarly, the White House released a report on 18 December saying that the rogue nation was ''pursuing chemical and biological weapons'' that could be ''delivered by missile.''
The fact that the defected soldier was only a mid-level officer indicates that the country may have developed some form of vaccination against the virus and is supplying it on a large scale to its troops. It can also be construed that the Pyongyang regime may be producing the virus in a large quantity.
The deadly anthrax virus is capable of killing around 80 per cent of those exposed to it unless they are provided proper treatment within 24 hours.
The new development puts South Korea, which has not yet developed vaccines against anthrax, in a tight spot.
Pyongyang, however, has continued to deny these allegations and accused the US of spreading lies.