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US military bio-research violates international law

By Wang Hanling | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-22 07:18

China Daily

The United States is reported to have 336 bio-labs in 30 countries, including 26 in Ukraine. Media reports also say that the research the biological laboratories funded and controlled by the US in Ukraine conducted could be behind the increase in the number of cases of diphtheria, rubella, tuberculosis and measles in the country since 2014. Besides, the World Health Organization has included Ukraine in the list of countries with a high risk of a polio outbreak.

The Russian Defense Ministry claims the documents it has acquired from the personnel of a bio-lab in Ukraine show that the US and its NATO allies have been conducting research on biological weapons, including the highly infectious bird flu virus which spreads through migratory birds, and pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that can be transmitted from bats to humans.

The bio-labs in Ukraine, according to some reports, have been working to develop components of biological weapons, just like what Japan's Unit 731 did before and during World War II.

Japan's use of chemical and biological weapons in China caused the deaths of about 1.2 million Chinese people between 1932 and 1945. The US acquired and utilized the research materials and personnel of Japan's Unit 731, and used such weapons in Korea (during the Korean War-1950-53), Vietnam, the Middle East and Kosovo, poisoning and killing millions of people after World War II.

The international community reached a consensus on banning the use of biological weapons after World War I, during which Germany, the United Kingdom and France used such weapons, leading to heavy casualties. The ban was reinforced in 1972 and 1992 with the prohibition on the development, production, stockpiling and transfer of biological weapons.

The 1925 Geneva Protocol is the first international pact that banned the use of asphyxiating, poisonous and other gases, and bacteriological weapons in war. The Biological Weapons Convention or the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972 moved further toward the total elimination of such weapons by prohibiting their development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, transfer, and their delivery systems, as well as requiring their destruction.

The BTWC supplements the 1925 Geneva Protocol. And the Chemical Weapons Convention, concluded in 1992, extended the prohibition to the development, production, stockpiling, retention and transfer of chemical weapons, and their delivery systems. The CWC also requires such weapons to be destroyed.

And the US has ratified all these conventions and agreements.

The US military's bioresearch in Ukraine and other countries violates the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the BTWC, which are an important part of the international law to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And as a pillar of international peace and security, the BTWC has the support of an overwhelming majority of the countries in the world.

The state parties to the BTWC have ensured that it remains effective and is continuously strengthened. However, the US refuses to allow international monitoring of its weapons research facilities, and has not stopped research into biological and chemical weapons. In 2001, the US unilaterally withdrew from the negotiations on the development of an additional protocol to the BTWC, according to which an independent body, the "Technical Secretariat", was supposed to monitor the microbiological research activities of all countries.

The US military used on its own territory a combat biological formulation of anthrax strain, Ames strain, resistant to all antibiotics and not amenable to treatment, according to the Russian Academy of Sciences. Worse, the US has been blocking the establishment of the BTWC's verification mechanism for more than 20 years.

It is clear therefore that the US resorts to double standard on bioresearch, as it does on many other issues of global concern. And yet it made outlandish accusations against China that the novel coronavirus had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology without providing any evidence.

Moreover, US President Joe Biden ordered a 90-day review by US intelligence agencies even after the WHO report on COVID-19 concluded that a lab leak was "extremely unlikely". On the other hand, the US has not accepted an international investigation into Fort Detrick, a US military lab where research on coronaviruses had been going on for years.

In July 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a halt in research work at Fort Detrick in Maryland after a respiratory disease of unknown causes broke out in a community near the lab and several thousand cases of pneumonia with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 were reported in several states in the US.

The US rejected reports that it has been developing and possesses chemical and biological weapons and that the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic could be linked to its military bio-labs. As a party to the BTWC and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US is obliged to comply with the BTWC and international law. So it should not only abide by the BTWC and other international conventions but also allow global investigation into its biological facilities.

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of International Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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