China is conducting clandestine bioweapons investigations and has not disclosed previous offensive work on germ weapons, according to a State Department report released Tuesday.
Beijing is also hiding test data related to nuclear power by blocking the sensors of an international monitoring system used to detect underground nuclear explosions, according to the annual arms control compliance report.
The unclassified report provides new details on America’s “for many years” concerns related to Beijing’s biological weapons investigation that is not permitted by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention signed by 183 countries, including China and the United States. .
The Biological Weapons Convention prohibits the development, testing, and use of biological weapons and requires the dismantling of all past germ weapons.
“The United States has compliance concerns regarding toxin research and development in Chinese military medical institutions due to possible dual-use applications and its potential as a biological threat,” the report said.
The US government has approached China about its concerns and will continue to monitor Chinese biological activities, according to the report. Furthermore, the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether China eliminated its evaluated biological warfare (BW) program, as required by Article II of the Convention. “
Article I prohibits all work on biological weapons, and Article II requires the elimination of all germ weapons programs.
The report noted that China’s submissions to the convention “have not documented that offensive program, nor documented that China has eliminated the program or the remaining biological weapons” required by the agreement.
The unclassified report did not reveal details of China’s military research and development on biological weapons, but said China has continued to build biotechnology infrastructure and work with unspecified “countries of interest”.
A senior US official said the language of the report was carefully crafted but refers to the undercover investigation of biological weapons.
Biological weapons include viruses and toxins that can be used in times of war to kill or disable. Known biological weapons include anthrax, botulism, tularemia, Ebola, plague, and smallpox.
The Washington Times quoted a senior Trump administration official in May as alleging that China is involved in a covert biological weapons program that includes building weapons capable of targeting ethnic groups with pathogens.
“We are analyzing possible biological experiments on ethnic minorities,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
A retired Chinese general, Zhang Shibo, stated in a 2017 book, “New Highland of War,” that advances in biotechnology increased the likelihood of offensive biological weapons, including the danger of “specific ethnic genetic attacks.” A 2017 report from the Chinese Army National Defense University included a section warning that biology is a new domain of warfare and that a future germ conflict could include “specific ethnic genetic attacks.”
China’s extensive work with viruses, including laboratory research on bat coronaviruses, has fueled concern that the virus that causes COVID-19 has escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.
A senior officer of the People’s Liberation Army, Major General Chen Wei, considered an expert in China’s biological defense programs, was dispatched to Wuhan in late January, raising suspicions about the origin of the virus.
The Chinese government has denied that the coronavirus escaped from a laboratory.
Army General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this year that US intelligence agencies were investigating whether the virus escaped from a Wuhan laboratory or whether it originated naturally. US officials have not linked the coronavirus outbreak to China’s suspected biological weapons programs.
However, the State Department noted in March that the appearance of the COVID-19 outbreak on the 45th anniversary of the biological weapons treaty only “highlights the importance of [Biological Weapons Convention signatories’] commitments to reduce all biological risks. “
US officials have said that China’s secret behavior regarding the origins of the coronavirus outbreak reflects the secrecy surrounding its previous biological weapons investigation. China had an offensive biological weapons program in 1984 when it signed the convention and has provided no evidence that the program and weapons were dismantled.
On China’s nuclear testing, the report says China does not appear to adhere to the “zero performance” moratorium on nuclear testing agreed in 1996 by signatories to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. China was involved in a high level of activity at its Lop Nur nuclear test site last year, which experts say appears to be preparing to operate the facility year-round. Activities include the use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation, and secrecy surrounding its nuclear tests.
Beijing has frequently blocked the flow of data from the stations of the International Monitoring System in China. The stations transmit data to an international center that monitors the test ban treaty.
The data was cut for over a year and resumed in August.
“While there are other more plausible explanations for China’s retention information from IMS stations, the United States cannot rule out the possibility that China may have carried out activities at its test site that are inconsistent with its moratorium commitment, as interpreted according to the US ‘zero performance’ standard, ”the report said.
China is involved in a large-scale build-up of nuclear forces that includes the addition of multiple warhead missiles, which will likely require new warheads.
The report also blamed Beijing for failing to meet missile sales guidelines under the 35-nation missile technology control regime.
China “continued to supply MTCR-controlled items to proliferation concern missile programs,” the report said.