North Korea may be attracting attention over its missile tests, but experts are also sounding the alarm about the country's suspected possession of biological weapons.
As a recent Business Insider report states, "Biological weapons are particularly scary, since they could ignite a global disease pandemic as devastating as nuclear war."
An analysis in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists points out that North Korea's alleged bioweapons program is still largely a mystery, but there have been unconfirmed reports it may include a variety of harmful agents including smallpox, anthrax, plague, botulinum toxin, and hemorrhagic fevers.
Inside North Korea's secretive missile program
Efforts to weaponize these diseases are believed to have begun in the 1960s by former President Kim Il-sung and have since been linked to different facilities such as the Germ Research Institute, the Central Biological Research Institute, and a Bio-technical Institute—the latter of which current President Kim Jung-un was seen visiting in 2015.
According to a RAND report from 2013, the most likely target for these bioweapons would be South Korea, as the agents could be dispersed into the air and potentially carried downwind.
However, it also points out that North Korea's special forces unit could engineer attacks in Japan and the United States as well.
Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
While the harm could be widespread, proving North Korea as a perpetrator could be difficult, with former U.S. official Andrew C. Weber telling the Washington Post, "With biological weapons, especially, there's an opportunity for covert attack with deniability, since attribution would be difficult."