- The Washington Times
Thursday, March 26, 2020

The State Department on Thursday hailed the anniversary of an agreement limiting biological weapons by noting the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we observe the 45th anniversary of the #BiologicalWeaponsConvention and reaffirm the importance of #BWC Parties’ commitments to preventing biological weapons,” the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation stated in a tweet.

“The #Covid-19 pandemic highlights the importance of #BWC Parties’ commitments to reducing all biological risks,” the tweet noted.

The coronavirus outbreak has been traced to Wuhan, China, but details about the exact origin have not been determined. Most virology experts believe it was not engineered as a biological weapon.

Experts have voiced differing views on whether new bat-origin virus mutated naturally to humans from a wild animal market in Wuhan, or may have escaped from a research lab studying coronaviruses.

The Biological Weapons Convention first entered into force on March 26, 1975.

The multilateral convention prohibits the 183 states that are signatories from developing, producing or stockpiling biological and toxin weapons.

The Wuhan virus, known officially as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, first surfaced in Wuhan and has since December spread rapidly throughout the world.

Biological warfare experts say the virus is not an ideal biological weapon because of difficulties of controlling its spread.

The main toxin and biological weapons that are studied by the U.S. military are called “the big six” by Dr. Mark Kortepeter, a retired Army colonel who is an expert at germ warfare and worked at the Army’s Fort Detrick biological warfare defense research lab.

The six are botulism toxin, tularemia, Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses, plague, smallpox and anthrax.

“Each pathogen has unique skills and attack strategies to outmaneuver humans and rain death and destruction on individuals or societies,” Dr. Kortepeter wrote in his book “Inside the Hot Zone: A Soldier on the Front Lines of Biological Warfare.”

The State Department said in its latest annual report on arms control compliance that “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.”

China signed the convention but the report said “there is no available information to demonstrate that China took steps to fulfill its treaty obligations” to give up its offensive biological weapons program.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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