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US overseas biolabs: Horrible threats in disguise?

By Xin Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-04-21 09:03

An American flag flies outside of the US Capitol dome in Washington, US, Jan 15, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

"Post-Soviet states are being turned into biological test ranges by the United States." Thus exclaimed Anthony Bell, an independent military analyst, a few weeks ago. In fact, biolabs in the former Soviet countries are only the tip of the iceberg of the US global biological experiment network. Its extensive scale, long-term deployment and despicable practices make people shudder.
Among the victimized is Indonesia. People in the Southeast Asian country, as reported, used to be treated as testing materials in the biological experiments of the US military.

Detik.com, Indonesia's largest web portal, disclosed in April 2022 that the US Navy conducted a "secret operation" in Padang, West Sumatra Province during the 2016 "Pacific Partnership" exercise in Indonesia, where they collected human blood and rabid dog samples. Navy surgeons operated on local patients aboard the USNS Mercy and transported three rabid dogs from West Sumatra. Those actions were not approved by the Indonesian government.

"We asked for the treatment to be done on land so that it could be monitored, and they (US military medical personnel) were doing it on the ship," said Indonesian health officer Muhammad Subuh with concern. "It was also possible that patients were undergoing blood and other experimental tests on board. We cannot guarantee whether the blood drawn by the US military was only used for medical diagnosis or for follow-up biological research. This is what we are worried about." In addition, Subuh said the Americans wanted to collect dengue virus samples from local mosquitoes, also against Indonesian laws.

That was not the first case of its kind. NAMRU-2, a US Navy biological laboratory operating in Jakarta from 1970 to 2009, was banned by the government for being "a threat to Indonesia's sovereignty". The lab was established during the plague outbreak in Indonesia "to study infectious diseases of potential military significance in Asia". But according to Siti Fadilah Supari, Indonesia's Health Minister from 2004 to 2009, the overall efficacy of the research was questionable.

"Although they focused on malaria and tuberculosis, the results for their 40 years in Indonesia were not significant", says Supari. "I only knew their lab was hard to access. And the researchers were US Marines, all of whom had diplomatic immunity," she added. "We never knew what they were carrying in their diplomatic briefcases." It is convenient to transfer biological research samples from Indonesia to the US using a diplomatic briefcase.

In 2006, NAMRU-2 diagnosed a batch of H5N1 cases in Indonesia. Indonesia allowed the lab to only share the samples with US Centers for Disease Control for the purpose of pandemic prevention, and specifically requested the lab not to transfer any data collected in the country to anyone else. However, NAMRU-2 shared all the information with a sequence database at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory, without providing any explanation.

In April 2008, Minister Supari paid a surprise visit to NAMRU-2, revealing to the press the lab's lack of transparency and the fact that it didn't share the results of its work with the Indonesian government. Just at the time when Minister Supari put pressure on NAMRU-2 and their suspicious behavior hit the headlines on local media, NAMRU-2's facilities were almost burned down in a sudden fire, the cause of which remains unknown. "Someone wanted to hide something," Indonesian media commented.

Doesn't that seem familiar? In late February 2022, several US-run biological laboratories in Ukraine "urgently destroyed" the pathogens of plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera and other deadly diseases, out of the reason to "prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach," according to Victoria Nuland, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Be it an accidental event or an intended fire, US biolabs around the globe are always swift to cover up certain facts from the public.

The truth cannot and will not be concealed. The real purposes of US overseas biolabs need to be laid bare. Countless ordinary people have suffered from the secret human experiments and successive security incidents. They deserve an answer.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Xinhua News Agency, Global Times, CGTN and China Daily. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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