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.”