Chinese scientists discussed using coronavirus as a biological weapon in 2015: Media report
Beijing: A document written by Chinese scientists and health officials before the pandemic in 2015 states that SARS coronaviruses were a "new era of genetic weapons" that could be "artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed, reported by international Media.
The paper titled 'The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons suggested that World War Three would be fought with biological weapons'. The document revealed that Chinese military scientists were discussing the weaponisation of SARS coronaviruses five years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), told news.com.au that the document is as close to a "smoking gun" as we've got.
"I think this is significant because it clearly shows that Chinese scientists were thinking about military application for different strains of the coronavirus and thinking about how it could be deployed," Jennings said.
"It begins to firm up the possibility that what we have here is the accidental release of a pathogen for military use," Jennings added.
He also said that the document may explain why China has been so reluctant for outside investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
"If this was a case of transmission from a wet market it would be in China's interest to co-operate ... we've had the opposite of that."
Are the documents verified?
Robert Potter, a cyber security specialist who analyses leaked Chinese government documents, was asked by The Australian to verify the paper. He says the document definitely isn't fake, reported news.com.au.
"We reached a high confidence conclusion that it was genuine ... It's not fake but it's up to someone else to interpret how serious it is," Potter said.
"It emerged in the last few years ... they (China) will almost certainly try to remove it now it's been covered."
Potter further stated that it isn't unusual to see Chinese research papers discussing areas that they're behind on and need to make progress in.
"It's a really interesting article to show what their scientific researchers are thinking," he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been caused by a coronavirus named SARS-Co V-2 which emerged in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, several of which cause respiratory diseases in humans - ranging from a common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
China reported the first COVID-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then the deadly disease has become a pandemic, affecting more than 157,789,300 people and causing over 3,285,200 deaths worldwide.
China's transparency ?
Tom Tugendhat MP and Australian politician James Paterson said the document raises major concerns about China's transparency on the origins of COVID-19.
Questions remain over the origins of the deadly virus after a much derided World Health Organisation (WHO) probe earlier this year, with the organisation ordering a further investigation which factors in the possibly of a lab leak.
Most scientists have said there is no evidence that COVID-19 is manmade, but questions remain whether it may have escaped from a secretive biolab in Wuhan, from where the pandemic originated.
China is known to have been carrying out high risk "gain of function" research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which is near the outbreak's ground zero at the Huanan Seafood Market.
There is no evidence so far to suggest it was intentionally released by China.
How did China respond?
Meanwhile, in Beijing, the state-run Global Times newspaper slammed The Australian for publishing the article to smear China.
An academic book that explores bioterrorism and possibilities of viruses being used in warfare was interpreted as a conspiracy theory by The Australian, which deliberately and malignantly intends to invent pretexts to smear China, Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the newspaper.
"It is a shame for anti-China forces in Australia to back their own ideology against China at the expense of basic professional journalistic ethics, conspiring to twist the real meaning of the book," Chen said