A North Korean soldier who defected to the South has been found to have anthrax antibodies in his bloodstream, local news reports.
The unidentified soldier, believed to be the man who defected in November this year, would have been either exposed to or vaccinated against anthrax before he defected to South Korea.
This comes after a report that North Korea is conducting biological weapons experiments to test the possibility of loading anthrax-laden warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year," a South Korean intelligence official told local news network Channel A according to UPI.
It is not known who the unnamed defector is, but it could be the young soldier who was caught on camera running across the border and nearly shot dead by his fellow comrades in November.
Oh Chong Song, 24, was shot four times as he made a mad dash for South Korea, and has been recovering in a Seoul hospital since, the MailOnline reported.
Song had been shot in his knee, arm, back and chest through his shoulder, but despite his serious injuries, the team at the hospital saved his life.
The hepatitis B and the parasites - some more than 10 inches long - found in his body highlight nutrition and hygiene problems that experts say have plagued North Korea for decades.
He is believed to be an army staff sergeant who was stationed in the Joint Security Area in the United Nations truce village of Panmunjom, according to Kim Byung-kee, a lawmaker of South Korea's ruling party, briefed by the National Intelligence Service.
It could also be the soldier who defected on December 21, who took the opportunity to run across to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula during a thick fog.
Earlier this week, Japan's Asahi newspaper cited another unidentified person connected to South Korean intelligence, who said that North Korea was conducting biological weapons experiments to test the possibility of loading anthrax-laden warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Asahi report said the U.S. government was aware of the tests, which were meant to ascertain whether the anthrax bacteria could survive the high temperatures that occur during warheads re-entry from space.
North Korea vehemently denied the allegation and said it will 'take revenge' on the US for saying it is developing biological weapons.
In a statement issued via the state Korean Central News Agency, the regime said it is party to the Biological Weapons Convention and as such "maintains its consistent stand to oppose development, manufacture, stockpiling and possession of biological weapons".
It went on that the more the US 'clings' it its anti North Korea stance "the more hardened the determination of our entire military personnel and people to take revenge will be".
The news that North Korea may have been testing anthrax-laden warheads comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in is seeking to soothe relations with China and the North before the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.
He suggested on Tuesday he was prepared to postpone military drills with the United States.
Pyongyang sees the joint exercises as preparation for war, while Beijing is still angry about the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system, commonly known as THAAD, by South Korea.
China believes the system's powerful radar can see far into its territory, but Seoul argues it needs it to guard against the threat posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes.
Seoul has proposed the potential delay in drills to Washington, which was also discussed during a summit last week between Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping, an official from the presidential Blue House in Seoul said on Wednesday.
China has in the past proposed a 'freeze for freeze' arrangement under which North Korea would stop its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a halt to the exercises. However, Washington has rejected the idea and Pyongyang has shown little interest in negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Ottawa on Tuesday he was unaware of any plans to "alter longstanding and scheduled and regular military exercises".
North Korea has stepped up its missile and nuclear tests to an unprecedented rate this year, and any new provocation from the North would 'inevitably have an impact' on the exercises, the Blue House official said.
"It is a display of the president's strong message that North Korea must not conduct any provocation (during the Olympics)," the official told reporters.
North Korea has also been hit with increased international sanctions over its missile and nuclear tests this year.
The United States has given China a draft resolution for tougher U.N. sanctions on North Korea and is hoping for a quick vote on it by the U.N. Security Council, a Western diplomat said on Tuesday, however Beijing has yet to sign on.
Details of the draft given to China last week were not immediately available, but the United States is keen to step up global sanctions to pressure North Korea to give up a weapons programme aimed at developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.
China resumed some restrictions on group tours into the South, South Korea's inbound travel agency said on Wednesday.