WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- North Korea is producing chemical weapons at more than a dozen facilities and is suspected of testing them on healthy human subjects, a U.S. research team said.
John Hopkins researchers, writing on their 38 North blog Thursday, said North Korea has the means to produce and deploy "significant quantities" of chemical weapons throughout the region and possibly worldwide.
"Just as ominous as these chemical weapons production and delivery capabilities is a growing body of evidence that indicates a [North Korean] history of proliferation of chemical capabilities to nations such as Syria, Iran and others," researchers said.
Johns Hopkins said there may be as many as 18 facilities in North Korea producing chemical weapons, including mustard gas and sarin. The nerve agent sarin was used as a weapon during the Syrian civil war in August.
The researchers said they believe North Korea has tested sarin and other chemical agents on healthy political prisoners inside the country. It said reports are "extremely difficult" to confirm but said there's been a steady string of reports suggesting North Korea has a policy of "low-level lethal testing of chemical agents on unwilling human subjects."
North Korean concerns have focused on its nuclear weapons program. An explosion of a nuclear device underground in February was the country's third such test.