Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported Tuesday that North Korea has begun tests to load anthrax onto its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The report, citing an unidentified person connected to South Korea’s intelligence services, said that North Korea is testing to ensure that the anthrax can survive the incredibly high temperatures generated during a missile’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The regime has a stockpile of between 2,500 tons and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and has been capable of producing biological agents including anthrax and smallpox for decades after orders from North Korea’s first leader, Kim Il Sung, in the 1960s.
News of the new anthrax-loaded missiles comes just a day after the White House published its National Security Strategy. In the document, the administration says Pyongyang is “pursuing chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile.”
The document also said, “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.”
Last month, North Korea claimed it had completed its nuclear force after launching its new Hwasong-15 ICBM, a missile that could theoretically put the entire U.S. mainland in range.
As tensions have risen, both the U.S. and South Korea have carried out joint military drills simulating and combating a biological attack. President Donald Trump has engaged in fiery rhetoric with the North Korean leader, who has referred to Trump as a “dotard.”
And as both the U.S. and North Korea have threatened military action against the other, fears of a conflict breaking out have risen, especially in nearby Japan and South Korea.