Burgeoning Asian Bioweapons

Most of us know of the atrocities conducted at Auschwitz by Josef Mengele during World War II.  However, very few people are aware of the equally horrendous human experimentation conducted simultaneously by Japan. A clandestine program conducted by the Japanese during World War II was responsible for the experimentation and genocide of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens as well as others, and ultimately led the Chinese to develop their own robust biological weapons program which is in full swing presently.  In this report, we will look back at the Japanese biological weapons program that started it all, and fast forward to the burgeoning Chinese biological warfare program today, which arose from it. Special thanks to fellow researcher, The Speaker, for contributions to this report. By The Sharp Edge Biological Weapons of the Imperial Japanese Following World War I, the Japanese imperialist policy of expansion through military and political tactics, led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, which some scholars site as the origin of the Second Sino-Japanese War.  This war between the People’s Republic of China and the Japanese Empire transpired amidst the backdrop of World War II.  Following the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States declared war on the Japanese and began to aid China in their efforts.  After the devastation of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the Soviet led invasion of the Japanese stronghold in Manchuria, Japan finally surrendered to the Allied forces.  It was within this time frame that Imperial Japan conducted covert biological and chemical warfare.  The clandestine project was overseen by a special department of the Japanese Imperial Army known as Unit 731.  Other biological and chemical warfare units connected to Unit 731 were founded in major Chinese cities, following the Japanese invasion in 1937.  At the peak of this operation, the entire network of biological and chemical warfare research units under Japanese Imperial Army control, comprised of approximately 10,000 doctors, professors, and biochemists.  This biological weapons research and development unit, which masqueraded as, the “Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department,” conducted horrendous human experiments, drawing comparisons between Unit 731 to somewhat similar experimentation conducted by Nazi German scientists at Auschwitz.  Shiro Ishii, the Surgeon General and a Japanese microbiologist army medical officer, led the secret research group responsible for spreading anthrax, bubonic plague, cholera, small pox, botulism and other deadly pathogens throughout China.  A wide range of test subjects were gathered from the population, including pregnant women, children, and the elderly, for the purposes of their human experimentation.  To desensitize the researchers from the horrors of experimentation on live humans, the dehumanized victims were referred to as “logs,” as described by one civilian employee who worked for the unit.  The term originated as an inside joke, as the Unit 731 facility was officially described to local authorities as a lumber mill.  Interestingly, the secret project was internally referred to as, “Holzklotz” (the German word for “log.”)  After touring several European laboratories as well as conducting extensive studies on chemical warfare used by the Germans in World War I, Shiro Ishii formed his theoretical concepts of Japan’s use of biological warfare.  The atrocities of chemical weapons used during World War I led to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, banning the use of chemical and biological agents in war.  Though the Geneva Convention treaty of 1925 was signed by Japan, it was never ratified by the National Diet of Japan.    The human experiments conducted under Unit 731 included research in the areas of: understanding how various pathogens affect the human body, development of vaccines and treatments, and the weaponization of pathogens.  Human subjects were injected with diseases, often times disguised as vaccines, and then observed in order for researchers to understand the effects.  Victims, who were imprisoned within the confines of the Unit 731 facility, often times underwent vivisection procedures (the dissection of live humans) without anesthetic, in order for the scientists to observe the deterioration of organs resulting from the pathogens that ravaged their bodies.  Some human subjects were tied to stakes as researchers studied the effects of various bombs and weapons on them.  Others were forced to undergo freezing temperatures in order to understand the effects of frostbite.  Female prisoners were often times raped and impregnated in order to understand the transmission of diseases to the unborn.  As a result, many children were born into captivity and were the subjects of human experimentation as well. Over the course of their operation, at least 3,000 men, women and children were held captive for experimentation at the Unit 731 facility – none of whom survived. Through their research, the unit developed special bombs carrying bioweapons, including one that carried fleas which was used to spread the bubonic plague.  Japanese soldiers poisoned food and water supplies in China using the biological weapons developed by Unit 731, and were even known to hand out poisoned candies to unsuspecting children.  It is estimated that up to 580,000 people were killed from biological warfare and human experimentation conducted through the covert project. While Nazi German leaders underwent military tribunals known as the Nuremberg trials, for war crimes following World War II, members of Unit 731, including their ruthless leader Shiro Ishii, received secret immunity from U.S. authorities in exchange for their biological weapons research. Twelve researchers from the unit were captured by Soviet forces and tried for their war crimes.  Members tried by the Soviets received notably light sentencing in comparison to their crimes, leading researchers to believe that the Soviets may have also struck a deal with the Japanese for biological weapons research.  Declassified documents reveal that the United States not only provided members of Unit 731 with immunity, but payments from the U.S. War Department were made to unnamed members of the unit in the amount of 150,000 to 200,000 yen.  The documents explain how the U.S. War Department believed that the “information procured will have the greatest value in future development of the US BW (bacteriological warfare) program” and the “data on human experiments may prove invaluable.”  The eagerness for the United States to obtain this information may have been in an attempt to supersede the Soviet Union in a biological warfare arms race.   Burgeoning Chinese Biological Weapons From the context of the Japanese biological warfare program which ravaged the Chinese population from 1933 to 1945, and the presumed emerging biological weapons arms race between the United States and the USSR, China’s biological warfare program arose.  Though China agreed to the Geneva Protocol in 1952 and the Biological Weapons Convention in 1984, by 2005, the U.S. State Department reported that “The United States believes that China continues to maintain some elements of an offensive BW capability. The issue is whether this capability constitutes a violation of the BWC.” The 2005 Compliance report went on to state, “The United States believes that China began its offensive BW program in the 1950s and continued its program throughout the Cold War, even after China acceded to the BWC in 1984. Undoubtedly China perceived a threat from the BW programs of its neighbor, the Soviet Union. There are some reports that China may still retain elements of its biological warfare program. Such reports support the United States continued belief that China has not abandoned its offensive BW program… Facilities in China that may have legitimate public health and commercial uses could also offer access to additional BW-enabling capabilities.” The same 2010 Compliance Report found again, that China’s declarations to maintain compliance with the BWC, “have neither documented the offensive BW program it possessed prior to its accession to the BWC in 1984, nor documented that China has eliminated the program or any remaining biological munitions in accordance with the BWC,” and went on to state that, “Available information indicates China engaged during the reporting period in dual-use activities that included: identifying factors that enhance the virulence, toxicity, or antibiotic resistance of pathogens, including through the use of genetic engineering; identifying, characterizing, and testing numerous new toxins; producing toxins synthetically; and examining advances in research on airborne microbial aerosols.”  The 2010 report did not, however, find that the dual-use activities were in violation of the BWC. Then in July of 2019, U.S. officials expressed concerns over China’s burgeoning biological weapons program during the 2019 CBRN Defense Conference and Exhibition. The Lead Clinical Consultant at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, Dr. James Madsen, stated that “there are many deadly and frightening chem-bio threats that are not on many people’s radar. One, which he would not name, can infect a person and have a long latency period. ‘When you have symptoms … it’s too late and you deteriorate over a period of months to weeks and you die.’”  The Chief Intelligence Officer at the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense explained, “What we’ve seen over the past few years is the norms around chemical and biological weapon use have been eroded almost completely. The norms surrounding these and the treaties surrounding these have really taken a hit.” Compliance concerns were raised once again by the U.S. State Department in their 2019 Compliance report, which stated, “Information indicates that the People’s Republic of China (China) engaged during the reporting period in biological activities with potential dual-use applications, which raises concerns regarding its compliance with the BWC. In addition, the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether China eliminated its assessed biological warfare (BW) program, as required under Article II of the Convention.”  The report went on to explain, “Article I of the BWC obligates States Party ‘never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain …[m]microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes.’ 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. In addition, the United States assesses that China possessed an offensive BW program from the early 1950s to at least the late 1980s. There is no available information to demonstrate that China took steps to fulfill its treaty obligations under Article II of the BWC, which requires China to destroy or to divert to peaceful purposes all items specified in Article I of its past offensive BW program.” Continued defiance by China, to report biological research activities required by the Biological Weapons Convention of 1984, are at the crux of growing distrust by the United States and other nations, as to their secretive biological weapons program. What Have We Learned From SARS? An atypical form of pneumonia referred to as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, began to spread swiftly worldwide in November of 2002, eventually causing the World Health Organization to announce a worldwide health threat.  The first known case of SARS is believed to have occurred in Foshan, China near Guangzhou in Guangdong province, sometime in mid-November of 2002.  When first discovered by mid-December, Chinese medical personnel notified health experts in order to diagnose the disease by early January of 2003. Health experts conducted an investigation of the unknown “strange disease” and submitted a report to the provincial health bureau by January 27th of 2003.  The report was marked as “top secret,” which only authorized the provincial health officials to open it.  Three days passed before any authorized provincial health officials read the document.  Then, once the document was finally read, a bulletin was distributed to hospitals within the province. In compliance with the State Secrets Law regarding the dissemination of public health information, the public was kept in the dark about the emerging threat.  Under the State Secrets Law, any infectious diseases were classified as a state secret until the Ministry of Health authorized a public announcement.  Therefore, any doctors, public officials, or journalists who were to report on … Continue reading Burgeoning Asian Bioweapons