North Korea's nuclear ambition has been a threat to neighboring countries and even the U.S. over the last two decades. While U.S. President Donald Trump tried to mediate and reach a peace agreement that could have forced denuclearization, he could not reach a consensus despite two formal meetings. Now, a U.S. Military report suggests that North Korea has close to 60 nuclear warheads and the world's third-largest stock of chemical weapons including anthrax.

Titled, 'North Korea Tactics', the report said that Kim Jong Un-ruled country had accumulated the nuclear stockpile as a war deterrent despite being plagued by poverty. North Korea fears an attempt from other countries including the U.S. and South Korea to bring about a change in regime and thus has increased the capacity to produce around six nuclear warheads every year. The report estimates that by the end of 2020, it will have 100 nuclear warheads.

If that was scary, North Korea also possesses biological weapon capability and if the US Army report is to be believed, under Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, the country has already weaponized smallpox and anthrax.

Minuteman III
North Korea will have close to 100 nuclear warheads by 2020 (Representational Image) Wikimedia Commons

"North Korea possesses nuclear and chemical weapons, and it is highly likely that the country has also done research on biological weapons. North Korea sought nuclear weapons because its leaders thought the threat of a nuclear attack would prevent other countries from contemplating a regime change," the report said.

Gaddafi Factor

The main motivating factor according to the report is the assassination of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. The dictator decommissioned nuclear and biological weapons to establish rapport with the western countries in 2003 following invasion of Iraq by the U.S. But he was assassinated during the Libyan civil war in 2011.

Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong Il in 2011, believes if Gaddafi had nuclear and biological weapons, external powers wouldn't have taken steps to support rebel forces and remove him as the President. Kim's family sees weapons of mass destruction as a war deterrent despite sanctions by the United Nations that have crippled its economy.

north korea leader kim jong-un
North Korea's Supreme Leader during a successful missile test in 2017 KCNA/Reuters

"Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense war deterrence, there will no longer be a war on this land and our national security and future will be firmly guaranteed permanently," Kim Jong Un said as per state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Irrespective of economic sanctions, North Korea has hinted that it will continue to pursue nuclear weapons. It has already achieved the technological feat of miniaturizing nuclear warheads that can fit into ballistic missiles, as per a UN report.

That's not it. The country has also pursued biological weapons although it has never revealed in public. North Korea has weaponized smallpox and anthrax, a kilogram of which is capable of killing over 50,000 people. As per the U.S. Army report, North Korea now has the third-largest stockpile of biological weapons at its disposal and it is "highly likely" that the country will use bio-warfare should any military conflict arises.

Biological warfare
North Korea possesses nearly 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons — third largest stockpile in the world (representational image) Piqsels

"It is estimated that the country possesses 2,500–5,000 tons of chemical weapons of approximately 20 different types, making it the third-largest possessor of chemical agents in the world. This includes highly toxic sarin and VX chemical agents. It is highly likely that the KPA would use chemical artillery shells," the report said.

It further added that the bioweapons can be mounted on missiles for use against South Korea, Japan and U.S. targets. In February, Kim Jong Nam, Supreme Leader's brother was assassinated using a VX nerve agent in Malaysia. But the country has also vaccinated its soldiers against anthrax. Recently, a defector, who was a KPAGF soldier, was found with that vaccine.

North Korea's warfare is also beyond traditional warfare. It allegedly has over 6,000 hackers working in China, India and Russia, Belarus and Malaysia. They are part of its Bureau 121 which is divided into four subordinate units: Andarial Group, Bluenoroff Group, Electronic Warfare Jamming Regiment and the infamous Lazarus Group.