Academic journal article Asian Perspective

A Chinese Admission of False Korean War Allegations of Biological Weapon Use by the United States

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

A Chinese Admission of False Korean War Allegations of Biological Weapon Use by the United States

Article excerpt

A LITTLE-REMEMBERED ASPECT OF KOREAN WAR HISTORY IS THE ALLEgation by North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union that the United States had used biological weapons on an enormous scale over both China and North Korea during the war. Despite the public disclosure in 1998 of Soviet Central Committee documents declaring the allegations to have been fraudulent, China-and North Korea much more noisily-still maintains the charges. The issue is of great importance to those concerned with arms control and allegations of actual use of weapons of mass destruction.

Those charges have now been refuted in a striking posthumous publication written by Wu Zhili, who was Director of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army Health Division during the Korean War. Wu wrote a brief memoir in September 1997 that was found among his papers after he died in 2008. It was published in a Chinese journal only in November 2013; an English translation first became available in April 2015 (Wu 2013).1 In 1952, Wu was critically involved in the Chinese government's manipulations that produced the Korean War biological weapons allegations. His own testimonial contains a second one as well, by Huang Kecheng, chief of staff of the Chinese Army during the Korean War and later secretary-general of the Central Military Commission. Wu Zhili's testimonial overturns everything previously published in a Chinese source. In addition, the full text of the cable from Mao Zedong to Josef Stalin on February 21, 1952, recently published by Russia's State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI), sheds more light on China's responsibility for the allegations.

The Charges

Two years before the war began, Soviet propaganda charged that the United States was testing biological weapons (plague) against the native Inuit peoples of Alaska. In Soviet reporting on the 1949 trial in Khabarovsk of participants in the Japanese World War II biological weapons program, Pravda stated that the United States was "preparing for new crimes against humanity," as in biological warfare. Chinese broadcasts reported that the US government was collaborating with Lt. General Ishii Shiro, one of the major figures responsible for Japan's use of biological weapons in China, ostensibly in preparation for subsequent use of biological weapons by the United States against China. In March 1951, China charged that General Douglas MacArthur "is now engaged in large scale production of bacteriological weapons for use against the Korean Army and people" (Leitenberg 1998, 188).2

The first allegations of biological weapons use by the United States were made on May 8, 1951. North Korea's foreign minister claimed that the United States had used biological weapons between December 1950 and January 1951, and was spreading smallpox in North Korea. Chinese statements were made on March 14; May 19, 24, and 25; and June 22. Between March 5 and May 13, 1951, the Chinese government also charged on ten occasions that the United States was using chemical weapons in the Korean War. North Korean statements continued into July, and then also stopped.

The major campaign alleging US biological weapons use, however, began on February 22, 1952. The North Korean foreign minister again issued an official statement addressed to the United Nations Secretariat, charging that the United States had made multiple air drops over his country in January and February of infected insects containing plague, cholera, and other diseases. Two days later, China's foreign minister Zhou Enlai supported the North Korean charges and on March 8, expanded them to claim that the United States had sent 448 aircraft on no fewer than sixtyeight occasions between February 29 and March 5 to drop germcarrying insects over Northeast China. The charges increased for months to come, with Chinese news agencies reporting many thousands of US air sorties to drop biological agents over China and North Korea. Nevertheless, on no occasion did the Chinese or North Koreans claim to have shot down a US aircraft carrying biological weapons or the delivery systems for them. …

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