London/Melbourne: Amid the ongoing second surge of COVID-19 pandemic, reports say that the US State Department has obtained documents referring Chinese military scientists allegedly investigated weaponising coronaviruses five years before the coronavirus and may have predicted a World War III fought with biological weapons.
According to ‘The Sun’ newspaper in the UK, quoting reports first released by ‘The Australian’, the ‘bombshell’ documents obtained by the US State Department reportedly show the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) commanders making the sinister prediction.
The papers, which were written by military scientists and senior Chinese public health officials in 2015 as part of their own investigation into the origins of COVID-19, allegedly stated that Chinese scientists described SARS coronaviruses ‘of which COVID is one example’ as presenting a “new era of genetic weapons”.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, several of which cause respiratory diseases in humans ranging from a common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The PLA papers referenced allegedly seem to fantasise that a bioweapon attack could cause the “enemy’s medical system to collapse”, and it references work by US Air Force colonel Michael J. Ainscough, who predicted World War III may be fought with bioweapons.
The paper also includes musing that SARS ‘which hit China in 2003’ could have been a man-made bioweapon deliberately unleashed by “terrorists”. The Chinese scientists reportedly boasted the viruses could be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.
According to the report, the document lists some of China’s top public health figures among the authors and has been revealed in an upcoming book on the origins of COVID, titled ‘What Really Happened In Wuhan’.
China reported the first COVID-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then the deadly disease has become a pandemic, affecting more than 157,789,300 people and causing over 3,285,200 deaths worldwide.
Tom Tugendhat MP and Australian politician James Paterson said the document raises major concerns about China’s transparency on the origins of COVID-19. Tugendhat, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, was quoted in ‘The Sun’ as saying, “China’s evident interest in bioweapons is extremely concerning. Even under the tightest controls these weapons are dangerous”.
He further added, “This document raises major concerns about the ambitions of some of those who advise the top party leadership.”
Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), told news.Com.Au that the document is as close to a “smoking gun” as we’ve got, adding “I think this is significant because it clearly shows that Chinese scientists were thinking about military application for different strains of the coronavirus and thinking about how it could be deployed.”
Among the 18 listed authors of the document are reportedly People’s Liberation Army scientists and weapons experts.
Robert Potter, a cybersecurity specialist who analyses leaked Chinese government documents, was asked by The Australian to verify the paper. He says the document definitely is not fake and quoted by news.Com.Au as saying, “We reached a high confidence conclusion that it was genuine. It’s not fake but it’s up to someone else to interpret how serious it is.”
Questions remain over the origins of the deadly virus after a much-derided World Health Organisation (WHO) probe earlier this year, with the organisation ordering a further investigation which factors in the possibility of a lab leak.
Most scientists have said there is no evidence that COVID-19 is manmade, but questions remain whether it may have escaped from a secretive biolab in Wuhan ? from where the pandemic originated.
China is known to have been carrying out high-risk “gain of function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) which is near the outbreak’s ground zero at the Huanan Seafood Market. However, there is no evidence so far to suggest it was intentionally released by China.
The state-run Global Times newspaper, meanwhile, slammed The Australian for publishing the article to smear China. “An academic book that explores bioterrorism and possibilities of viruses being used in warfare was interpreted as a conspiracy theory by The Australian, which deliberately and malignantly intends to invent pretexts to smear China,” a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, Chen Hong reportedly told the newspaper.
(With Agency Inputs)