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North Korea claims it was targeted with anthrax by US

Pyongyang has accused Washington of targeting it with live anthrax after low-concentration samples of the bacterium were sent to a US base in South Korea. North Korea made its complaint in a letter to the UN.

Pyongyang's UN Ambassador Ja Song Nam made the complaint to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a formal letter, the contents of which were made public on Friday.

Ja asked the security council to investigate Washington's "biological warfare scheme" after a sample was sent to a US military facility in Osan, South Korea.

"The United States not only possesses deadly weapons of mass destruction ... but also is attempting to use them in actual warfare…," Ja wrote in the letter, dated June 4.

North Korea "strongly requests the Security Council take up the issue of the shipment of anthrax germs in order to thoroughly investigate the biological warfare schemes of the United States," Ja said.

Nordkorea / Raketenstart / Rakete

The UN normally concerns itself with complaints against North Korea, such as its staging of rocket tests

US defense officials revealed in late May that

live anthrax samples had been sent

after a mistake meant that the bacteria were not killed with gamma rays before dispatch. The live samples were

also shipped several other countries

, including Australia, Canada, Britain and Japan, as well as 69 labs in 19 US states plus Washington DC.

'Hideous crime aimed at genocide'

However, a statement from North Korea's National Defense Commission, attached to Ja's letter, claimed the particular shipment to its southern neighbor been "the gravest challenge to peace and a hideous crime aimed at genocide."

Neither the Security Council nor the US mission to the UN gave an immediate response to the letter.

Pyongyang is particularly sensitive to US military cooperation with South Korea and strongly objects to joint exercises carried out between the two countries.

North Korea is currently under sanctions imposed by the UN for

carrying out nuclear tests

and missile launches. The country is banned from trading

nuclear and missile technology

and from importing luxury goods.

The UN has also added

human rights concerns

to its agenda on North Korea, after a UN Commission of Inquiry report last year cited abuses comparable to Nazi-era atrocities in Europe.

rc/msh (AP, Reuters)

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