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China conducting covert biological weapons research, State Department says

China is conducting clandestine biological weapons-related research and has failed to disclose past offensive germ weapons work, according to a State Department report made public Tuesday. Beijing also is hiding nuclear-related test data by blocking sensors from an international monitoring system used to detect underground nuclear blasts, the annual arms control compliance report contended. The…

China conducting covert biological weapons research, State Department says

China is conducting clandestine biological weapons-related research and has failed to disclose past offensive germ weapons work, according to a State Department report made public Tuesday.

Beijing also is hiding nuclear-related test data by blocking sensors from an international monitoring system used to detect underground nuclear blasts, the annual arms control compliance report contended.

The unclassified report provides new details regarding U.S. concerns “for many years” related to Beijing’s biological weapons research that is not permitted under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention signed by 183 nations, including China and the United States.

The Biological Weapons Convention bans the development, testing and use of biological arms and requires dismantling all past germ weapons.

“The United States has compliance concerns with respect to Chinese military medical institutions’ toxin research and development because of the potential dual-use applications and their potential as a biological threat,” the report said.

The U.S. government approached China about its concerns and will continue to monitor Chinese biological activities, the report said. “In addition, the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether China eliminated its assessed biological warfare (BW) program, as required under Article II of the Convention.”

Article I bans all work on biological weapons, and Article II requires elimination of all germ weapons programs.

The report stated that China’s submissions to the convention “have neither documented that offensive program, nor documented that China has eliminated the program or any remaining biological weapons” required under the accord.

The unclassified report stopped short of revealing details about Chinese military research and development on biological weapons but said China has continued building biotechnology infrastructure and working with unspecified “countries of concern.”

A senior U.S. official said the report language was carefully crafted but refers to covert biological weapons research.

Biological weapons include viruses and toxins that can be used in wartime to kill or disable. Among the known biological weapons are anthrax, botulism, tularemia, Ebola, plague and smallpox.

The Washington Times quoted a senior Trump administration official in May alleging that China is engaged in a covert biological weapons program that includes building arms capable of attacking ethnic groups with pathogens.

“We are looking at potential biological experiments on ethnic minorities,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

A retired Chinese general, Zhang Shibo, stated in a 2017 book, “New Highland of War,” that biotechnology advances were increasing the likelihood of offensive bioweapons, including the danger of “specific ethnic genetic attacks.” A report by the Chinese military’s National Defense University in 2017 included a section warning that biology is a new domain of warfare and that a future germ conflict could include “specific ethnic genetic attacks.”

COVID questions

China’s extensive work with viruses, including laboratory research on bat coronaviruses, has fueled concern that the virus that causes COVID-19 may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.

A senior People’s Liberation Army officer, Maj. Gen. Chen Wei, who is considered an expert in China’s biological defense programs, was dispatched to Wuhan at the end of January, fueling suspicions about the origin of the virus.

The Chinese government has denied that the coronavirus escaped from a laboratory.

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this year that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating whether the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab or originated naturally. U.S. officials have not linked the coronavirus outbreak to China’s suspected biological weapons programs.

The State Department, however, noted in March that the emergence 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 reducing all biological risks.”

U.S. officials have said China’s secretive behavior regarding the origins of the coronavirus outbreak mirrors the secrecy surrounding its earlier biological weapons research. China possessed an offensive biological weapons program in 1984 when it signed the convention and has not provided proof that the program and weapons were dismantled.

On China’s nuclear testing, the report said China does not appear to be adhering to the “zero yield” moratorium on nuclear testing agreed to in 1996 by signatories of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. China engaged in a high level of activity at its Lop Nur nuclear testing site last year that experts said appears to be preparation for operating the facility year-round. The 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 International Monitoring System stations in China. The stations transmit data to an international center that monitors the test ban treaty.

The data was cut off for more than a year and resumed in August.

“While there are other, more plausible explanations for China’s withholding information from IMS stations, the United States cannot rule out the possibility that China could have conducted activities at its test site that are inconsistent with its moratorium commitment, as interpreted in accordance with the U.S. ‘zero-yield’ standard,” the report said.

China is engaged in a large-scale nuclear forces buildup that includes the addition of multi-warhead missiles, which likely requires new warheads.

The report also faulted Beijing for failing to adhere to guidelines on missile sales under the 35-nation Missile Technology Control Regime.

China “continued to supply MTCR-controlled items to missile programs of proliferation concern,” the report said.

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China still spying on U.S. coronavirus vaccine efforts, Wray tells Congress

Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts. Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties…

China still spying on U.S. coronavirus vaccine efforts, Wray tells Congress

Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts.

Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties back to Chinese actors.”

“They’re trying to essentially jump to the front of the line by stealing information from others,” Mr. Wray said.

He declared China the largest counterterrorism focus of the FBI, and pointed to thousands of open investigations into Chinese attempts to penetrate American institutions.

Mr. Wray first warned in early summer that China was attempting to compromise U.S. coronavirus efforts.

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China attempted to cover up scope of COVID-19, could have largely prevented outbreak: GOP report

China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded. The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts…

China attempted to cover up scope of COVID-19, could have largely prevented outbreak: GOP report

China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded.

The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts to cover up the severity of the initial spread of the virus and that the government harassed and detained journalists, scientists and health care professionals who were voicing concerns about its handling of the outbreak.

“It is beyond doubt that the [Chinese Communist Party] actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” the report said. “Research shows the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95 percent had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and responded to the outbreak in a manner consistent with best practices.”

The report also said that the Chinese government was “legally obliged” on Dec. 27 to inform the World Health Organization that the outbreak in Wuhan may constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30.

The report’s conclusions take aim at the WHO, from which President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal in May, and said that the United Nations-backed organization was “heavily influenced by the Chinese Communist Party” in its messaging of the outbreak.

“The WHO has been complicit in the spread and normalization of CCP propaganda and disinformation,” the report stated, citing outside experts. “By repeating as truth statements that were misleading, if not lies, the WHO negatively impacted the global response.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the Democrat-led committee, said in a statement Monday that “it is crystal-clear that had the CCP been transparent, and had the head of the WHO cared more about global health than appeasing the CCP, lives could have been spared and widespread economic devastation could have been mitigated.”

There have been over 31 million reported cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than 961,000 people have died from the virus, with 199,525 deaths in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The global population currently stands at 7.8 billion.

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China slams US ‘bullying’, warns of action over TikTok, WeChat |NationalTribune.com

China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat. “China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,”…

China slams US ‘bullying’, warns of action over TikTok, WeChat |NationalTribune.com

China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat.
“China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Saturday.
“If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
The United States Commerce Department announced the bans on Friday, citing national security grounds although China and the companies have denied US user data is collected for spying
Under Friday’s order, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday onwards. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through November 12.
The timeframe gives TikTok’s parent group ByteDance some breathing space to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
“We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department, and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12,” ByteDance said in a statement.
“We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.”

START HERE | Should TikTok be banned? (10:50)

TikTok says it has 100 million US users and 700 million globally.
‘Very very popular’
Friday’s order follows weeks of deal-making over TikTok, with US President Donald Trump pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations to a domestic company to satisfy Washington’s concerns over TikTok’s data collection and related issues.
California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy.
Trump said on Friday said he was open to a deal, noting that “we have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” suggesting that even Microsoft, which said its TikTok bid had been rejected, might continue to be involved, as well as Oracle and Walmart.
Trump noted that TikTok was “very, very popular,” said “we have to have the total security from China,” and added that “we can do a combination of both”.
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks amid escalating tensions with Beijing on a range of issues from trade and human rights to the battle for tech supremacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Commerce Department’s order “violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms”.

INSIDE STORY | Why does Trump want to ban Tiktok? (24:11)

The action against WeChat, used by over 1 billion people worldwide, bars the transfer of funds or processing of payments to or from people in the US through it. Users could also start to experience significantly slower service or sporadic outages from Sunday night.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings’ called the order “unfortunate” but said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution”.
WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the US, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
The order does not ban US companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the US, which will be welcome news to US firms such as Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programmes to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said.
The order will not bar transactions with Tencent’s other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the US.
WeChat users have sued to stop the ban, and a federal judge in California on Friday set an emergency hearing for Saturday at 1:30 pm Pacific time.
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