Soldier ‘vaccinated’ against anthrax as North Korea is 'pursuing chemical, biological weapons'

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017. KCNA via Reuters

A North Korean fighter who had defected to South Korea earlier this year was possibly vaccinated against anthrax, stirring fears that Kim Jong-un’s henchmen have weaponised the disease. South Korean authorities have revealed that traces of anthrax antibodies were discovered in the soldier’s bloodstreams. This is according to a report by a local South Korean television station on Tuesday.

Information about the defector’s name or the date of his defection was not provided. But he was said to have been exposed to or vaccinated for anthrax, UPI reports, citing Channel A. He supposedly became immune to the serious bacterial disease before defection.

“Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year,” an unnamed South Korean official told Channel A.

An anthrax vaccine is expected to be developed by the end of 2019, Defence Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said. The lethal disease can cause the death of at least 80 percent of those exposed to the bacterium in 24 hours. Death can be prevented if antibiotics are taken or vaccination is accessible.

The report came after previous claims that Kim’s country was starting tests to mount anthrax onto intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. According to a report by Japanese newspaper Asahi, North Korea has begun experiments like heat and pressure equipment. These are aimed at preventing anthrax from dying even at a high temperature of over 7,000 degrees. Ultimately, the purpose of the tests was to determine if anthrax could survive heat and pressure on an ICBM.

Earlier, the White House has released a report, saying the rogue nation was “pursuing chemical and biological weapons.” The new US National Security Strategy stated it has “spent hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could threaten our homeland.”

The report, however, has been denied by North Korea. It accused the US of portraying “untruths as truths.”

Through its state media Korean Central News Agency, North Korea said it maintains its stand to oppose the development, manufacturing, stockpiling and possession of biological weapons as a state party to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It reportedly has been consistent with such stand.

The state media called the US claims groundless. "The more the US clings to the anti-[North Korea] stifling move, the more hardened the determination of our entire military personnel and people to take revenge will be,” the KCNA has warned.