JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned yesterday that North Korea may be capable of firing a missile loaded with sarin nerve gas toward Japan, as international concern mounted that a missile or nuclear test by North Korea could be imminent.
“There is a possibility that North Korea is already capable of shooting missiles with sarin as warheads,” Abe told a parliamentary panel on national security and diplomacy.
He was responding to a question about Japan’s readiness at a time of increased regional tension.
A US navy aircraft carrier is heading toward the Korean Peninsula as Pyongyang prepares for the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung this weekend.
And with US-South Korean wargames ongoing, North Korea has intensified rhetoric warning it would retaliate strongly against any aggression.
South Korea has long said it believes North Korea can conduct its sixth nuclear test whenever it chooses. The 38 North website, which monitors North Korea, said satellite imagery of the country’s Pyunggye-ri nuclear test site suggests it is “primed and ready” for an explosion.
Images taken on Wednesday are said to show continued activity around the site’s north portal, as well as personnel and pallets of equipment or supplies in the main administrative area.
North Korea, which has never signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention, is believed to have up to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, according to a South Korean defense white paper.
Experts say if North Korea were to attack South Korea, it would likely target Seoul’s defenses with chemical and biological weapons dropped from aircraft or delivered via missiles, artillery and grenades.
Abe cited Syria, where dozens of people died recently in an alleged sarin nerve gas attack, as an example Japan should take seriously.