Tuesday 13 November 2018

Defector raises fears Kim plans to use anthrax as weapon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo: Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo: Reuters

Jonathan Gray

A North Korean soldier who defected to the South this year is reported to have antibodies linked to the deadly anthrax infection in his bloodstream, raising fears that the pariah regime may be trying to develop a biological weapon with the disease.

The presence of the antibodies in the unidentified soldier means that he was either exposed to or vaccinated for anthrax, and that he was immune to the bacteria that cause the deadly disease, reported South Korea's Channel A.

If untreated, anthrax can kill within 24 hours, and about 2,000 people are believed to be infected globally every year.

Despite fears that its hostile neighbour may be using the bacteria for a biological weapons programme, South Korea's military is yet to secure an anthrax vaccine and is not likely to do so until the end of 2019 said the country's defence ministry.

It has not been confirmed if the unnamed soldier was Oh Chong Song (24), who made headlines in November after defecting in a daring dash across the border and being gunned down by colleagues.

Mr Oh came close to death after being shot four times in his bid for freedom and is now recovering in hospital in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Although little is known about North Korea's suspected biological weapons programme, the 'Washington Post' reported in early December that US officials were increasingly concerned about the growing threat of biological weapons.

Analysts believe Kim Jong-un's pariah regime is moving steadily towards acquiring essential machinery that could potentially be used for advanced biological weapons that could be used against US and South Korean ground troops.

Pyongyang is believed to have experimented with bacterial strains including microbes that cause anthrax, cholera and plague. The threat is viewed as serious enough by the Pentagon to merit vaccinating Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and small pox.

Military planners have reportedly made preparations for US and South Korean aircraft to quickly strike suspected biological facilities if war breaks out.

Irish Independent

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