Humanity Must Take Action to Abolish Biological Weapons

Key points:

  • Are North Korea and China developing biological weapons by taking advantage of their military and commercial dual-use technologies?
  • Low-cost, yet extremely lethal biological weapons
  • Underestimated threat of these weapons

The U.S. Trump administration has begun full-fledged investigations into the cause of the pandemic, claiming that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory in Wuhan.

According to multiple sources, Fox News reported on the 15th that the virus spread after an employee was infected within a laboratory in Wuhan and transferred it to his associate.

The U.S. is likely to pressure China to disclose further information regarding details about their lab and what the employees were doing.


Why Were They Conducting Research to Strengten The Lethality and Infectivity of A Virus?

In this case, we can’t rule out the biological weapons theory.

It is highly possible that the coronavirus was artificially manipulated to improve the infectivity of the SARS virus derived from bats.

However, research aimed at increasing the lethality and infectivity was highly criticized in the event of a leak. China can explain that they were trying to develop a vaccine for such lethal viruses. We can’t deny the possibility that China was engaged in the development of biological weapons by leveraging their military and commercial dual-use nature.


The Horror of North Korea’s Biological Weapons

One specific example of a military and commercial dual-use case is North Korea.

In 2015, North Korea released a photo of Kim Jong-un posing at a pesticide plant called the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute. According to a New York Times article entitled ,”North Korea’s Less-Known Military Threat: Biological Weapons” in January 2019, Melissa Hanham, who analyzed the giant microbial incubator and spray dryer shown in the photo, suggested that “North [Korea] succeeded in building a seemingly harmless agricultural plant that could be repurposed within weeks to produce dried anthrax spores.”

Moreover, in December 2017, a Seoul source revealed that North Korea “may have tested anthrax, a biological weapon, on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”

The Ability to Confidentially Create a Low-Cost Weapon
It’s easy to tell apart facilities that develop nuclear weapons. However, since the technology of biological weapons is the same as that of people’s health and pest control, research seems harmless at first glance. It is difficult to distinguish those facilities from ones that produce biological weapons.

In addition, the production of pathogens is smaller and much cheaper than nuclear weapons. When comparing the cost of killing and injuring one person, the approximate cost of biological weapons is $1, compared with $2,000 and $200 for nuclear weapons and chemical weapons respectively (Japan Society for Security & Crisis Management, “Ultimate Crisis Management,” Japanese version).

Despite the low cost of production, it is still highly lethal. The spread of one gallon of anthrax could wipe out humankind.

A biological weapon is a deadly weapon that may be produced inexpensively and confidentially.


Underestimated Threat

With that said, there are very few people who have advocated the threat of biological weapons, excluding some experts in the field.

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” Bill Gates said in a TED talk in 2015. Unfortunately, his foresight was not taken seriously.


Humankind Must Build a Mechanism to Stop Biological Weapons

The lack of awareness of threats from biological weapons is also reflected in the inspection mechanism.

The only way to confirm that a plant is a biological weapons factory is by entering the facility without notice and conducting an on-site inspection. Unlike chemical weapons, however, there is no organization to even conduct an inspection.

The U.S. is investigating the possibility of the coronavirus leaking from a laboratory in Wuhan. If China continues to deny the possibility, the U.S. should demand an on-site inspection of the research facility.

As the virus is covering the world, the world shouldn’t remain silent to the reality of China and North Korea researching biological weapons in several locations.

Biological weapons are known to be “weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.” With this in mind, developed countries should quickly establish a control system to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

(Hanako Cho)

Humanity Must Take Action to Abolish Biological Weapons
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