Fact Check: US Has Biological Warfare Labs In South Korea?!

Does US Have Biological Warfare Labs In South Korea?!

Is the US conducting biological warfare experiments at their secret labs in South Korea?!

Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!

 

Claim : US Has Biological Warfare Labs In South Korea!

Official Chinese state media outlets like Xinhua,  People’s Daily, China Daily, and their 50 Cent Army (wumao, 五毛) are claiming that the US is conducting biological warfare experiments at their secret labs in South Korea.

Note : It’s a long post, so please feel free to skip to the next section for the facts…

China Daily Fri, Apr 15, 2022

US biolabs create fear in South Korea
XINHUA

SEOUL — South Koreans are gripped with fear over the prospect that US biological weapons laboratories operated by the US Forces Korea, or USFK, will transform the country into Washington’s “overseas hub” for biological warfare experiments.

The United States has flouted international conventions by steadily advancing its germ warfare program in the country. It sees South Korea as a country “friendly” enough to let the US military test lethal toxins without institutional hurdles.

 

Truth : US Does NOT Have Biological Warfare Labs In South Korea!

Now, I must first point out that it is impossible to prove a negative – that something that doesn’t exists, doesn’t actually exist.

But based on a complete lack of evidence, this is yet another example of Chinese propaganda warfare, and here are the reasons why…

Fact #1 : This Story Has Been Repeated Since 2020

A quick check shows that the Chinese state media have been promoting the story of the US biological warfare labs in South Korea since April 2020, if not earlier.

So this story isn’t new. It was repeated in July 2020, and then in August 2021, before the current slew of coverage in March and April 2022.

Fact #2 : No Evidence Of US Biological Warfare Lab In South Korea

Despite waxing lyrical about the US military conducting biological warfare experiments in their South Korea labs, the Chinese state media offered ZERO evidence.

There is no evidence of biological warfare experiments being conducted in South Korea, and there is no evidence of US setting up laboratories for the research and development of such weapons.

Fact #3 : Anthrax Was Sent To 9 US States, Australia + Canada Too

Chinese state media claimed that US biological warfare experimentation was “exposed” when live anthrax samples were sent to the Osan Air Base in South Korea.

The truth is – the same anthrax samples were sent to 51 laboratories in nine US states, as well as Australia, Canada and South Korea.

So the claim that US sent anthrax to South Korea because they let the US military “test lethal toxins without institutional hurdles” is nonsense.

This incident was covered widely by the global press, so it is peculiar that Chinese state media would (intentionally?) misinform their readers.

Fact #4 : Anthrax Samples Were Used For Tests

These anthrax samples were mailed to those laboratories as part of ongoing efforts to develop field tests for anthrax.

These tests are usually conducted using dead samples of anthrax, because live anthrax would obviously be a biosecurity risk.

Fact #5 : Anthrax Samples Were Supposed To Be Dead

What the Chinese state media won’t tell you is that those anthrax samples were supposed to be dead.

In March 2014, the Dugway Proving Grounds – a US Department of Defense laboratory which conducts biosecurity research – irradiated a batch of anthrax samples with gamma rays to kill them.

In April 2015, they mailed the “dead” anthrax samples to 51 labs in the US, Canada, Australia and South Korea, by commercial postal services because the samples were supposed to be completely “dead”.

This incident was covered widely by the global press, so it is peculiar that Chinese state media would (intentionally?) misinform their readers.

Fact #6 : US Military Was Unaware Anthrax Samples Were Active

What the Chinese state media will also “forget” to tell you is that the US military was unaware that the anthrax samples were still active.

It was a commercial laboratory in Maryland that alerted the Pentagon on 22 May 2015, after they discovered that their sample had some active spores.

As CDC spokesperson Jason McDonald explained, the samples were quickly transferred to the CDC :

The samples are being carefully transferred to the CDC in Atlanta. They are starting to arrive, but cautioned that the samples need five more days to grow before officials can determine if they contain live anthrax.

While this was a deeply concerning accident that could have been disastrous, it was most definitely not an attempt to conduct biological warfare experiments in South Korea.

This incident was covered widely by the global press, so it is peculiar that Chinese state media would (intentionally?) misinform their readers.

Officials from the South Korea-U.S. joint working group conduct an on-site inspection of a laboratory at Osan Air Base, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday, about 70 days after the Pentagon admitted that live anthrax samples were accidently delivered there. / Joint Press Corps

Fact #7 : Anthrax Sample In South Korea Was Destroyed

The anthrax sample in South Korea was quickly destroyed, even though there was no evidence it was still active – the batch was simply assumed to have not been sufficiently irradiated.

The military destroyed the anthrax on Wednesday after the sample, which was thought to be inactive, was suspected of being live. None of the personnel in contact showed signs of exposure. But they were given exams, antibiotics, and in some cases, vaccinations.

The military stresses there was no risk to the public. The exposure happened in a contained lab environment on the Osan Air Base, which is 65 miles south of Seoul. It’s one of a number of bases that houses the estimated 28,000 American military personnel based in South Korea.

Fact #8 : No One Got Sick

Four lab employees in the states of Texas, Delaware and Wisconsin, as well as 22 military and civilian personnel at the Osan Air Base, were given antibiotics as a precaution.

However, no one got sick from the potential exposure to the anthrax spore samples. I have to stress – there was no actual evidence that anyone got infected by those anthrax samples.

Fact #9 : Anthrax Is Naturally Found In Soil

Despite its fearsome reputation, anthrax is a disease caused by bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis, that is naturally found in soil, and commonly affects domestic and wild animals.

While people can get infected by breathing in its spores, it usually does not spread from human to human.

As long as the anthrax samples were not being weaponised, the US did not contravene the Biological Weapons Convention.

The use of dead anthrax samples to develop or improve or certify tests for anthrax most certainly do not contravene the Biological Weapons Convention.

Fact #10 : USFK Must Report To Korea CDC When Importing Biological Agents

The South Korea-US Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was revised in 2015 to mandate that the USFK must file a report with the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when importing any biological agents, including inactivated biological agents.

So the claim that the US military can bring in biological materials without informing the South Korean government is no longer true since 2015.

It is interesting that Chinese state media are still (intentionally?) not aware of that development…

Fact #10 : JUPITR Was Designed To Detect Biological Threats

Chinese state media claim that US biological warfare experiments are being conducted under the JUPITR program.

That’s nonsense, because JUPITR (Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition) is a bio-surveillance program.

JUPITR was set up to monitor for biological threats posed by North Korea, using new bio-surveillance analysis equipment like :

  • BioFire Film Array, which can process Dry Filter Unit samples in 5-6 hours, instead of several days
  • IQuum Liat, which is a sample-to-result molecular diagnostic system
  • 3M Focus

To be clear – JUPITR does not involve biological warfare experiments.

JUPITR Biosurveillance Station

Fact #11 : JUPITR Ended Development In 2018

Interestingly, Chinese state media (intentionally?) forgot to mention that the development of the JUPITR program ended in 2018.

While its passive early warning capability remains in place, there has been no further work done on the JUPITR program since 2018.

So I have to wonder why they are still harping on JUPITR in 2022… Do they really have nothing new to report on?

Fact #11 : CENTAUR Was Designed To Detect Biological Threats

The Chinese state media also claim that US biological warfare experiments are being conducted under the CENTAUR program, which is also nonsense.

CENTAUR, which is short for “Capabilities to Enhance NBC Threat Awareness, Understanding & Response“, is an early warning system that looks for biological threats in South Korea.

To ensure that such a system works, the USFK (US Forces Korea) uses samples of dead pathogens (like the anthrax samples mentioned earlier) to test its detection capabilities.

The USFK has publicly announced that they do not use live samples for testing, after a few dozen people protested against the CENTAUR program.

We hold the health and safety of our service members, civilian employees, family members and Korean neighbors in the highest regard. The CENTAUR system is safe. USFK does not and has never used live agents for testing.

Photo credit : Yonhap

Fact #12 : Biological Warfare Banned In 183 Countries

Biological warfare has long been banned by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that was signed on 10 April 1972, and came into effect on 26 March 1975.

As of January 2022 – 183 countries have become party to this treaty, which means they agreed to stop development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological weapons.

Fact #13 : Biological Labs Are Essential To All Countries

What the Chinese state media (intentionally?) don’t mention is that biological labs are a necessity in ALL countries.

Biological labs do not conduct biological warfare research, because that is banned in 183 countries under the BWC (see Fact #12).

Instead, they are on the forefront of a country’s biosecurity defences, and are absolutely essential in developing tests and cures (including vaccines) for new and emerging diseases, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

In fact, China itself has a number of biological labs, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is located right at the epicentre of the first COVID-19 outbreak.

It would be hypocritical and (intentionally?) misleading for Chinese state media to demonise biological labs. After all, they are ESSENTIAL to every country’s national security, including China’s.

Read more : Did GSK Make COVID-19 In Their Wuhan Lab?

This fake news appears to be part of the disinformation campaign conducted by the Chinese state media and their 50 Cent Army (wumao, 五毛).

Please help us fight such malicious fake news – SHARE this fact check far and wide!

 

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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.

 

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