North Korea may be capable of sarin-loaded missiles, Japanese PM warns

The paper estimates, as of that year, North Korea had 2,500 to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including anthrax, smallpox and plague.

Without providing specifics, US officials told NBC News that what Abe fears is within the realm of possibility - the North is technically capable of delivering sarin by missile.

The Pentagon also said "North Korea probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles".

Sarin is a nerve agent banned by the United Nations chemical weapons convention and is capable of killing victims within minutes.

Experts have warned of continued activity in Punggye-ri for weeks and fear North Korea may soon carry out its sixth nuclear test, especially as important events are approaching with the country celebrating the fifth anniversary of leader Kim Jong-un's transition to power.

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Japan is one of only a handful of countries which have experienced a sarin gas attack. But recently, Abe's ruling party has proposed that Japan should bolster its missile defense, including upgrading the capability to shoot down an enemy missile and acquiring the capacity to attack the base it was sacked from.

Number of people killed when sarin was used in the 1995 attack in the Tokyo subway.

US-based 38 North, which monitors the secretive communist state, said satellite images taken on Wednesday showed the base was "primed and ready".

Abe made the remarks during a national security panel, according to the Associated Press.

Abe was responding to a question about Japan's readiness at a time of increased regional tension. His government has lobbied to change the constitution to allow Japan to strike overseas targets.

  • Adam Floyd