North Korea has frightening chemical weapons capabilities, Japan PM says

"There is a possibility that North Korea is already capable of delivering (via missile) a warhead containing sarin", Abe told a parliamentary diplomacy and defence committee, referring to the poison nerve agent. The U.S. deployed a Navy strike group to the west Pacific near the Korean Peninsula over the weekend as concerns grow over the country's weapons program. The Guardian reports there is speculation the country could stage a missile test around the birthday celebration or on April 25, which marks the 85th anniversary of the Korean People's Army. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang, Vice Minister Han Song Ryol also said Pyongyang won't "keep its arms crossed" in the face of a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. Tensions are deepening as the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula and is conducting its biggest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea.

On Sunday, the USA sent a Navy strike group into waters near the Korean Peninsula in a show of force against Pyongyang's "reckless" nuclear threat.

South Korea has long said it believes the North can conduct its sixth nuclear test whenever it chooses.

The United States has warned that a policy of "strategic patience" with North Korea is over.

Researchers Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu wrote that images taken Wednesday show continued activity around the site's north portal, as well as personnel and pallets of equipment or supplies in the main administrative area.

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. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied any "imminent danger", however.

"We are considering a number of measures, such as the procedure of landing, providing shelter and checking for who exactly needs to get protection of our state as a refugee", Abe said, speaking in the parliament.

  • Joey Payne