In its latest assessment of Pyongyang’s military capabilities, the South Korean Ministry of National Defence stated in its defence white paper that the North is believed to have produced and stockpiled as much as 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons and has the ability to produce a further 2,000 tonnes a year.
The North has made no secret of its bio-weapon programme, with state media in 2015 showing images of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, touring a biological plant that experts say could be engineered to produce weapons.
Amplyfi, a Cardiff-based artificial intelligence company, last year carried out a search of the “deep Web” in search of North Korean interest in biological weapons. The investigation identified hundreds of thousands of hits, the Washington Post reported, with computer users in North Korea particularly interested in terms such as “gene expression”, “nuclear acid sequence” and “antibiotic resistance”.
A number of North Korean defectors, including former members of the military, have claimed during questioning that the North tests biological and chemical weapons on citizens who have been sentenced to death for crimes against the state.