BEIJING: China on Monday termed as "outright lies" the media reports that its military scientists investigated weaponising coronaviruses five years before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and said it is an attempt by the US to smear the country.
The US State Department reportedly obtained the "bombshell" documents, which were written by Chinese military scientists and senior public health officials in 2015 as part of their own investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
According to media reports, which referred to the documents obtained by the US officials, scientists of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) allegedly investigated weaponising coronaviruses five years before the COVID-19 pandemic and may have predicted a World War III fought with biological weapons.
"I have seen the relevant report. Some in the US have been playing up so-called internal documents to smear China.
"But eventually, facts proved that they are either making malicious interpretations out of context or spreading outright lies," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here when asked about the reports first released by 'The Australian'.
Quoting 'The Australian', UK-based The Sun newspaper reported that Chinese scientists described SARS coronaviruses -- of which COVID is one example -- as presenting a "new era of genetic weapons".
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, several of which cause respiratory diseases in humans -- ranging from a common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Hua referred to a report published by state-run Global Times, which stated that what the US State Department referred to is not an internal document of the PLA but a publicly issued academic book.
The book cited former US Air Force colonel Michael J Ainscough stating that the next generation biological weapons are part of the US programme to deal with weapons of mass destruction, she said.
"So this is the US who is undertaking the research in biological war," she said and accused Washington of maintaining hundreds of bio labs abroad to conduct research.
"China always fulfils its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). We do not develop biological weapons. We have established a sound legal framework with a whole set of measures to ensure safety of bio labs," Hua said.
The PLA papers referenced seem to fantasise that a bioweapon attack could cause the "enemy's medical system to collapse", The Sun report said.
It references work by Ainscough, who predicted World War III may be fought with bioweapons.
The paper also includes musing that SARS -- which hit China in 2003 -- could have been a man-made bioweapon deliberately unleashed by "terrorists", the report said.
They reportedly boasted the viruses could be "artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before".
The document lists some of China's top public health figures among the authors and has been revealed in an upcoming book on the origins of COVID, titled 'What Really Happened In Wuhan'.
China reported the first COVID-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then the deadly disease has become a pandemic, affecting more than 158,400,700 people and causing over 3,294,655 deaths worldwide.
China claims that COVID-19 has been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world but it is the first to report when it emerged in Wuhan in December 2019.