International

SARS biological warfare
Kyodo/AP
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
Qin Gang

SARS Biological Warfare Accusations Cause Stir Between China and Taiwan

October 07, 2008 04:12 PM
by Josh Katz
A statement from a Taiwanese official potentially implicating China in SARS weaponization has increased tension between the two countries.

Tsai Accuses China of Biological Warfare

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On Monday, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Chao-ming told a legislative committee that sources in China indicated that China may have used SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) as part of a biological warfare program, but the accusations could not be proved.

In response to Tsai’s comments, Taiwan legislators appeared in parliament on Tuesday “wearing surgical masks and displaying skull-and-crossbones banners,” according to Reuters.

“These are completely groundless and irresponsible comments,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news conference. “Could you help me find the original source so we can find the scoundrel who spread them?”

Legislator Shuai Hua-ming was skeptical about the charges. “With biological warfare, you need to get the definition straight,” he said. “Warfare needs a goal, an object. China had no clear goal. It wasn't an operative weapons system.”
Relations between China and Taiwan have improved under the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou, causing some Taiwan legislators to wonder why the security bureau would bring up such a potentially incendiary topic now.

In response, Tsai has apologized for his remarks. The National Security Bureau issued a statement saying that Tsai, “expresses his sincere apology that his gaffe ... has caused misunderstanding and concerns,” AFP reports.

SARS appeared in southern China in 2002, killing 349 people in China alone. In Taiwan, 73 people died from the virus. The illness spread throughout the world, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing about 800, according to the AFP. After a cover-up of the initial spread of the virus was revealed, Beijing's mayor and health minister were forced to resign.

There have been other conspiracy theories about SARS in the past. When Russian scientists indicated that SARS might have been man-made, some Chinese activists accused the United States of manufacturing the virus as a biological weapon against China, Reuters writes.

Related Topic: U.S.-Taiwan arms deal angers China

On Monday, Pentagon and State Department officials announced that China has canceled a diplomatic trip to the United States because of a $6.5-billion arms sale to Taiwan. Although the weapons are allegedly for defensive purposes, China has expressed its objection to America’s support for Taiwanese sovereignty.

“In addition to the cancellation of a senior general's visit to the U.S., China will reportedly halt port calls by U.S. naval vessels, postpone ‘indefinitely’ meetings on stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and pull out of a Sino-U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief dialogue set for late November,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Reference: Taiwan

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