US Bio-labs and increasing danger to global order

The Yongsan US military base in Seoul, the ROK, was surrounded by ROK citizens shouting “Shut down the bio-labs!” It was not the first time that such protests took place in a country in which US troops are based. But the date of this campaign made it different. It was April 10, 2022, the 50th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

From the GG-21 Program in Georgia to the JUPITR Biochemical Experimentation Program in the ROK, biochemical experimental programs controlled by Washington have been exposed one after another. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The US, a self-proclaimed “beacon of democracy,” stands out in conducting dangerous biological experiments and expanding its bio-military empire to the whole world. Recently, a total of 5,629 contracts about US overseas biological laboratories were revealed. And the documents have so much to disclose.

The discrepancy in the number of overseas bio-labs would be an interesting start to a journey of discovery . The US openly admitted that it runs 336 biological laboratories in 30 countries around the world, including 26 in Ukraine. However, the contracts suggest that the US has signed contracts with 49 countries, way more than it had admitted. According to Igor Kirillov, chief of Russia’s radiation, chemical and biological protection force, the US has formed a network of more than 30 biological laboratories in Ukraine, which is also more than the US version of the tally.

In one instance of contract with Ukraine, there is a paragraph that goes, “preventing the proliferation of technology, pathogens and expertise that are located at facilities in Ukraine and that could be used in the development of biological weapons.” The wording sounds neutral indeed. But considering the shadowy lab operations and curious coincidences, this admonishment is more like an admission of a standard laboratory practice. It is particularly so when the media outlets all over the world have covered crises in places where US bio-labs are located. The Time of Israel reported that the secret human body experiments in Georgia’s Lugar Research Center had caused a number of deaths. In BBC’s report, the US troops in the ROK conducted tests on a variety of highly toxic substances, including live anthrax, without informing the ROK government and local citizens. Reuters reported that, on the day the Russian-Ukrainian conflict broke out, the US-controlled biological laboratory in Ukraine urgently destroyed deadly pathogens, including anthrax and rat plague.

If what the US funds and runs in Ukraine and elsewhere are truly “biological research facilities,” as US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland claimed during a Senate hearing, why would the names of US arms dealers appear on the contracts ordered by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency? The leopard cannot change its spots, people say, neither can Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics and Metabiota.

Within international fora, the US is afraid of bringing the Pentagon-controlled biological laboratories to light. For a long time, it stands alone in opposing the establishment of a verification mechanism for the BWC. Despite international public pressure, the US has never released the specifics of its experiments in biological labs around the world but brushed them off as “defensive.”

As Turkish medical biology genetics expert KorkutUlucan says, “the US should make actually biological laboratories public and set up ethics committees, with oversight by an independent body composed of multiple parties. If research conducted in secret gets out of hand, the results could be catastrophic.”

When commitments do not square with facts, fatal accidents keep occurring, and blood-thirsty military-industrial complexes are involved in ought-to-be biological research. Only candor, transparency and supervision can help dissipate the public suspicion, address international concern and prevent catastrophic results.

The US can no longer pretend that the world cannot see or does not care. The international community, the countries where US overseas bio-labs are based in particular, is keen to get an explanation.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to some unexpected discoveries. Russian media outlets recently reported that the Pentagon had commissioned more than 30 biological laboratories in Ukraine, where large quantities of dangerous viruses were stored.

The United States supposedly depends on these laboratories to implement its biological warfare research. And these are only a handful, or less than 10 percent of the 336 biological laboratories the US reportedly controls in 30 countries around the world.

No wonder the US was desperately pushing for “origin-tracing” studies for the COVID-19 outbreak at Chinese laboratories. Maybe because they have laboratories spread around the world, they are aware of the high risks of viruses leaking and triggering pandemics. They assumed similar risks from Chinese laboratories, but that is stretching it too far.

It is the US that’s ill, but it is forcing China to take the pill. And that’s precisely why the US has failed to bring COVID-19 under control on its shores. Instead of acknowledging the problem it is busy blaming others.

It is now also clear why the US has, for four decades, tried to prevent the Biological Weapons Convention from establishing a checking mechanism. Of the 182 signatories to the convention, the US is the only one that pulled out of negotiations for such a mechanism in 2001. It is clear that by doing so the US wants to protect the secrets of its 336 biological labs worldwide.

Latest reports say that the US embassy in Ukraine hurriedly deleted information related to the biological labs there. But they cannot wash away the fact about the existence of such laboratories around the world. It is time the US published information about these biological laboratories, including what kind of viruses are stored there, what “research” is going on and what harm they pose to people in these countries and around the world. The world should demand answers.

Dr. Ukom is a research fellow at Abuja-based Think tank