U.S. intelligence agencies recently increased their knowledge of China’s covert biological weapons program with the help of a defector from the People’s Liberation Army, according to people familiar with the incident.
The defector escaped from China and traveled to Europe, where he is under the protection of a European government security service, according to the sources. The PLA defector believes that Chinese intelligence has penetrated the U.S. government and is therefore wary of cooperating with the CIA and other Western spy agencies.
Still, the defector has provided some information about China’s biological arms program that has reached the U.S. government. No other details of the defection could be learned.
However, the defector is the second person from China to provide information about Chinese biological research with potential weapons applications.
Chinese virologist Yan Li-meng fled to the United States from Hong Kong this spring and charged in news interviews that the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic was manufactured in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and appears to be designed from two viruses stored in a PLA laboratory.
The State Department provided new details about China’s covert biological weapons program in a recent report on arms compliance.
“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. “In addition, the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether China eliminated its assessed biological warfare program, as required under Article II of the [Biological Weapons] Convention.”
A senior Trump administration official in May disclosed that China is working in secret on biological weapons, including arms capable of targeting specific ethnic groups with pathogens.
“We are looking at potential biological experiments on ethnic minorities,” the official said.
Chinese military publications since 2017 have described biology as a new domain of warfare, and one report warned that a future war could involve “ethnic genetic attacks.”
ESPER ON SPACE THREATS
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is warning that China and Russia have militarized space and that any future conflicts will involve space warfare.
“In the years ahead, wars will be fought not just on land and sea as they have for thousands of years, or in the air as they have for the past century, but also in outer space and cyberspace in unprecedented ways,” Mr. Esper said in a speech Wednesday.
To be ready, the U.S. military needs to modernize its forces for high-intensity conflict, he said.
The Air Force has had high-tech military advantages, but China and Russia are catching up.
“Our near-peer rivals, China and Russia, seek to erode our long-standing dominance in air power through long-range fires, anti-access aerial denial systems and other asymmetric capabilities designed to counter our strengths,” Mr. Esper said.
The defense secretary warned that China and Russia have turned space, once a peaceful arena, into “a warfighting domain.”
“They have weaponized space through killer satellites, directed-energy weapons and more in an effort to exploit our systems and chip away at our military advantage,” Mr. Esper said.
China recently tested a reusable space plane that placed an unknown object into orbit.
Beijing also has rapidly developed an array of space warfare capabilities, including several types of ground-launched anti-satellite missiles capable of hitting satellites in different orbits; ground-based lasers that can blind or damage orbiting satellites; and small robotic satellites capable of maneuvering and grabbing orbiting satellites.
Russia also has developed anti-satellite missiles and ground-based anti-satellite lasers.
By contrast, the Pentagon’s new Space Force has a single announced weapon system: an electronic jammer capable of disrupting satellite communications.
Mr. Esper said the X-37 space plane is one of the systems that will enhance high-technology military capabilities, the first time the secretive reusable spacecraft has been mentioned as part of military defenses.
The X-37 has conducted six missions and is currently in orbit. The craft is capable of conducting space defense and offense operations, U.S. officials have said.
Mr. Esper said U.S. military power in the future will be depend on maintaining superiority in what he called “the ultimate high ground.”
To address space warfare, the Trump administration created the Space Command, a unified combatant command, and the Space Force, which will develop a cadre of space warriors, he said.
CHINA’S ‘NO FIRST USE’ POLICY IN DOUBT
The commander of the Strategic Command, the military unit in charge of nuclear war fighting, said China is in the midst of a major nuclear buildup that will double the size of its nuclear warhead stockpile, currently assessed as in the low 200s, over the next 10 years.
China has long said it would not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict, but its buildup of forces appears to be preparing for a launch-on-warning capability similar to that of the United States and Russia.
Adm. Charles A. “Chas” Richard, the Stratcom commander, spoke with reporters this week and questioned whether the “no first use” pledge is a strategic deception by Beijing.
“As a military commander, what I look at more is another nation’s capabilities, less about what their stated intentions are, and I see China developing a stack of capabilities that would be inconsistent with a no first use policy,” he said. Chinese nuclear forces “certainly have the capabilities to execute any number of deterrent or employment strategies that are seemingly inconsistent with a no first use policy.”
China has deployed thousands of long-range missiles in a variety of basing modes, including in silos, on road- and rail-mobile launchers, and on submarines.
Beijing, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual report on the Chinese military, is also developing a bomber-launched ballistic missile. A new DF-41 missile is being deployed with multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs.
Asked about current JL-2 missiles that cannot reach the United States unless they are closer to U.S. shores, Adm. Richard said: “Well, what I would offer is to not shoot behind the duck, and I would actually pay more attention to the JL-3 missiles that they’re working on, which give them a greatly expanded range.”
The JL-3 will be deployed on newer ballistic missile submarines and will provide greater strike capabilities.
China’s strategic power cannot be measured by its warhead stockpile alone, the admiral argued.
“You have to look at the totality of it, the delivery systems, what they’re capable of, what their readiness is,” Adm. Richard said.
Adm. Richard spoke from the Omaha-based command in charge of nuclear forces that include land-based Minuteman missile fields in the western United States; a strategic bomber force at bases around the countries; and nuclear missile submarines always at sea.
Russia also is building up nuclear and conventional forces. Both Moscow and Beijing are seeking to outpace U.S. forces, he noted.
“We are on a trajectory for the first time in our nation’s history to face two peer nuclear-capable competitors who have to be deterred differently, and we’re working very hard to meet that challenge,” Adm. Richard said.
Russia is building up its forces with new nuclear and conventional weapons, counterspace arms, cyberweapons and new hypersonic missiles. Moscow also is waging “gray zone” warfare below the level of kinetic conflict.
Adm. Richard declined to comment when asked about President Trump’s comments to author Bob Woodward that the United States is developing a powerful secret nuclear weapon.
The four-star admiral also said his forces remain “mission capable” for a conflict despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Troops of the command had to adapt to the pandemic conditions, Adm. Richard said without specifying what steps were taken.
“Bottom line here is we’re ready,” he said. “And why is that important? It’s important for us to remember that throughout this challenge of COVID-19, no threats went away, right? Nothing else changed, no one gave up a single nuclear weapon based on the fact of COVID-19. In fact, it’s going in the other direction.”
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.
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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…
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 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 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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