- BEIJING (AFP) -- The mounting
death toll exacted by Sars in China has triggered speculation that the
virus could ultimately be traced back to a leak from military bio-weapon
- Although most reports favour a natural origin for Sars,
a bio-weapon link should not be ruled out, according to Mr Richard Fisher,
a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank.
- 'While there is no reported evidence that Sars is indeed
a weapon, there are plenty of ways that a real weapon with the properties
of Sars could prove decisive in a military conflict,' he said.
- Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, in an opinion piece
published in the International Herald Tribune this week, cited rumours
circulating in China such as the idea 'that Sars emanated from China's
biological weapons research facilities'.
- Many analysts consider a link between Sars and bio-weapons
- Ms Stephanie Lieggi, an East Asia expert at the California-based
Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said: 'I have seen nothing in recent
reports that would support any connection between Sars and biological weapons.'
- Another argument against the theory is the low kill ratio
associated with Sars. And although it is transmitted relatively easily,
it seems to be less contagious than most known viral bio-weapons, according
- But it is exactly the innocuous nature of Sars that could
make it militarily useful for someone wanting to sow panic and prompt political
instability, Mr Fisher argued.
- 'A seemingly 'natural' epidemic would lessen suspicion
of the main 'enemy state' by the target country and its main allies,' he
- The theory that Sars was a leaked weapon would depend
on the existence of an offensive biological weapon programme in China.
- According to US intelligence sources, the People's Liberation
Army does have an offensive programme, although it appears to have been
scaled down over the past two decades.
- The Institute of Military Medicine near Beijing has been
engaged in, at the minimum, defensive research.
- But overseas analysts do not know for sure whether China
envisages the use of biological weapons in future wars.