On Monday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of engaging in research that could be used for “bio-warfare and bio-terrorism.”
Hua raised the accusation during a press conference, in response to a question about a leaked Chinese document from 2015 in which officials said coronaviruses can be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponized and unleashed in a way never seen before.”
Hua downplayed the leaked documents and said it is “not any classified internal document, but rather a piece of openly available academic work.” Hua then said the Chinese documents cited U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Ainscough. Hua claimed Ainscough wrote that bioweapons are part of U.S. air force projects to counter weapons of mass destruction.
“The argument by Ainscough shows that it is the U.S. that is researching the technology of genetic engineering applied to bio-warfare and bio-terrorism,” Hua said.
“Some in the U.S. take every opportunity to cite and play up so-called ‘internal documents’ and ‘reports’ to denigrate and smear China,” Hua said. “However, facts and truth always prove that they are either the offender playing the defendant, or making vicious interpretations by taking words out of context or with presumption of guilt, or spreading sheer lies.”
Ainscough did author a 2002 report detailing the threat of biological weapons. The report makes no specific mention of offensive U.S. biological weapons programs but does describe a Pentagon plan to duplicate Russian anthrax agents as a means to develop an anthrax vaccine. Ainscough wrote the report’s purpose is to “provide information and analysis to assist the understanding of the U.S. national security policy-makers and USAF officers to help them better prepare to counter the threat from weapons of mass destruction.”
The leaked Chinese documents, shared between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force Medical University and senior Chinese public health officials in 2015, were first reported last week by The Australian. India’s Business Today reported the documents stated weaponized coronaviruses could present a “new era of genetic weapons” and could cause the “enemy’s medical system to collapse.”
China has faced repeated allegations one of its labs may have been behind the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. In January, the U.S. State Department under President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration, released a fact sheet noting several potential connections between activities at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan, China and the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. A new State Department report also noted China never disclosed it had a biological weapons program and declined to attend a 2020 bioweapons transparency meeting requested by the U.S.
In her Monday remarks, Hua went on to reference an often-used Chinese counter-allegation, that the U.S. created and spread COVID-19.
“I also want to point out that many countries are gravely concerned about bio-labs built by the U.S. both within its borders and overseas. It is reported that the U.S. has over 200 overseas bio-labs in 25 countries and regions,” Hua said.
She said the U.S. labs have seen past outbreaks and said “a Russian official recently said that Russia believes that labs under US control along the Russia-China border are developing biological weapons.”
The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, hundreds of miles from the Chinese-Russian border.
The exact origin of COVID-19 remains an open question. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been investigating COVID-19’s origins and while in early February the organization said the Wuhan Lab outbreak theory was “extremely unlikely” it later said that hypothesis remains open.