COVID-19 – is it a natural pandemic or a biological war? Some people believe that the coronavirus of COVID-19 known as SARS-CoV-2 has caused the pandemic naturally like the SARS or MERS but some think that the virus was genetically modified in China. In 2003, a coronavirus called SARS-CoV caused an epidemic in China and killed many people but it didn’t create such a global pandemic. The coronavirus that caused MERS in the Middle East, also didn’t cause any pandemic like situation around the world. Then why the SARS-CoV-2 virus caused such a problem for the whole world? All the three viruses of SARS, MERS and COVID-19 belongs to the coronavirus species, but why only COVID-19 became deadly to the whole world? If SARS-CoV-2 had naturally evolved from the coronavirus species then it shouldn’t have caused much problem when compared to SARS and MERS. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has evolved naturally like any other coronavirus, and it could be a biological weapon from North Korea. With the help of various genome editing technology, biological weapons can be created and North Korea has dual-use factories that could produce such a biological weapon.
Genome editing and biological weapon:
Genome Editing is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome of a living organism. With such editing, it’s possible to change the characteristics of any organism. Using genome editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas9, it’s possible to create various kinds of genetically modified microorganisms. However, with CRISPR/Cas9 it’s not possible to modify RNA viruses and that’s why a newer version called CRISPR/Cas13 is used, which can modify RNA viruses also. However, selecting the correct DNA or RNA part for editing needs a lot of research and time but with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning, the RNA guide can be designed precisely to match the target DNA sequence. For example, Microsoft is using machine learning and Azure cloud computing to speed up the editing process.
A biological weapon is a bacterium, virus, protozoan, parasite, or fungus that can be used as a weapon to cause harm and cause biological warfare (BW). Few examples of bio-agents are Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax), Brucella abortus/Brucella melitensis/Brucella suis (Brucellosis), Vibrio cholerae (Cholera), Variola virus (Smallpox) and Yersinia pestis (Plague). With the help of genetic editing technology like CRISPR, now it’s possible to create various types of biological weapons.
Any biological weapon can be produced using nine basic steps:
1. Choose the bio-agent
2. Acquire the agent
3. Choose the production method
4. Stabilize the agent
5. Concentrate the agent
6. Choose delivery method
7. Testing the bio-agent
8. Mass production
9. Stockpile and mobilize weapons.
Biological Weapons Convention (BWC):
It is a convention that prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxic weapons. It first started in 1972 and Netherlands was the first country to sign the convention. Till 2019, a total of 183 countries have signed the convention. Most of the countries have signed and submitted the convention to London, Moscow and Washington D.C. governments for ratification but some countries like North Korea have only submitted the signed convention in 1987 to Moscow only and was not ratified yet.
Many countries have signed the BWC but only some were successfully verified and most were ratified. However, some are still not recognized, only signed and not signed at all.
North Korea and COVID-19:
North Korea is a country in East Asia and Pyongyang is its largest capital city. It is a country which has a leader instead of a president, and Kim Jong-un has been the supreme leader of North Korea since 2011. Kim Jong-un is married to Ri Sol-ju and has three children. He has one brother – Kim Jong-chul and two sisters – Kim Yo-jong and Kim Sol-song. He also had a stepbrother – Kim Jong-nam, but was killed by a chemical weapon (VX), which was deployed by him only. Kim’s Jong’s sister – Kim Yo-jong and his brother – Kim Jong-chul, are also leaders of North Korea. All supreme leaders of North Korea hold the positions of leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea and commander-in-chief of the Korean People’s Army. The Workers’ Party of Korea follows the Juche and Songun ideology. Juche ideology defines that “man is the master of his destiny”, that the Korean masses are to act as the “masters of the revolution and construction” and that by becoming self-reliant and strong, a nation can achieve true socialism. Whereas, Songun is the “military first” policy of North Korea, prioritizing the Korean People’s Army in the affairs of state and “military-first ideology” serving as the guiding ideology. This also makes people of North Korea to live a life that is dominated by a group of army, rather than a democratic government. North Korea is not just a country, but also a force that only knows how to create war and terrorism around the whole world.
As North Korea is not having good relations with many countries, it is considered to be having a Hermit kingdom. The term “hermit kingdom” is used to refer to a country that willfully walls itself off, either metaphorically or physically, from the rest of the world. This country was previously designated a state sponsor of terrorism because of its alleged involvement in the 1983 Rangoon bombing and the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner. North Korea was designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the Trump administration of United States on 20 November 2017. The kidnapping of at least 13 Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and the 1980s has affected North Korea’s relationship with Japan also. However, North Korea was having good relations with China, but that got worsened after its nuclear program.
In North Korea, people are restrained from watching International TV channels and the country has its own network of TV channels, broadcasted in Korean language. North Korea uses a PAL 576i analog signal transmission system and 4:3 aspect ratio. It was done in this way purposely, so that their broadcast can’t be received by South Korea or by anyone outside the country. Apart from TV Channels, use of certain types of mobile phones are also prohibited, and international calls are considered illegal in North Korea.
Visitors are also not easily allowed to enter the country and need to take permission from the country leaders. This type of strict rules are made by the leaders of North Korea to maintain their privacy for terrorism. Interestingly, North Korea is getting an Internet facility but some of their websites are not accessible from other countries. Moreover, many tech giants have not included North Korea as a part of their operations and on YouTube (under location settings), you will find the names of almost all the countries except North Korea. In North Korea, internet access is only available for the residents and not for visitors or tourists. According to cybersecurity experts, North Korea maintains an army of hackers trained to disrupt enemy computer networks and steal both money and sensitive data. On 8 October 2018, it was reported by Bloomberg (US based media company), that a North Korean hacking group had tried to steal at least $1.1 billion in a series of attacks on global banks from 2014–2018.
North Korea began to develop its own chemical industry and chemical weapon (CW) program in 1954, immediately following the end of the Korean War. However, there was not much progress until the 1960s, when Kim Il-sung (founder and first supreme leader of North Korea) wanted to develop an independent chemical industry capable of producing chemical weapons, and he finally established North Korea’s Nuclear and Chemical Defense Bureau. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, North Korea received Soviet and Chinese aid in developing its chemical industry. In 2009 the International Crisis Group reported that North Korea had a stockpile of about 2,500 to 5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, sarin (GB) and other nerve agents. In 2014, the South Korean Defense Ministry estimated that “the North had stockpiled 2,500 to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and had a capacity to produce a variety of biological weapons. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that North Korea’ had the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents. Some sources confirmed that North Korea possesses various types of chemical weapons, including nerve, blister, blood, and vomiting agents, as well as some biological weapons, including anthrax, smallpox, and cholera.
In 2015, Melissa Hanham of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (USA), revealed a photograph of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un visiting the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute – a factory supposedly for the production of bacillus thuringiensis of use in pesticides. Such a factory is considered to be of dual-use, because such a factory can also produce Bacillus anthracis — the causative agent of anthrax — is produced through identical means. Hanham’s analysis concluded that the factory was capable of producing weaponized anthrax. Hanham noted that pesticide production factories are old and used for a biological weapons program and are perfect examples of dual-use technology.
The coronavirus outbreak that happened in 2019, also known as COVID-19, originated in a city called Wuhan in China. However, such an outbreak also happened in the same city previously in 2002 and it’s known as SARS. SARS was caused by a type of coronavirus called SARS-CoV. Apart from China, coronavirus infection cases were also seen in Saudi Arabia and it’s called MERS. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. None of the cases of SARS or MERS caused a global pandemic like COVID-19. If COVID-19 was caused by a virus belonging to the same species of coronavirus then how it became so deadly to the world? COVID-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-Cov-2 and some believe that this virus was genetically modified at the lab of Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan city. But that’s not true, because the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 didn’t match with the coronavirus samples stored in their lab. However, this institute has the highest level of safety (BSL-4) and follows strict regulations. That’s why the possibility of any biological weapon from such a lab is very low and China didn’t really create the COVID-19 virus. Moreover, why would China create such a virus that would infect its own people? The government of China is always concerned about the safety of its citizens and would not allow it to develop any such biological weapon. The genetic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 virus revealed that it contains a gene of Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which was intentionally put in order to make the virus more lethal. That proves that this virus was genetically modified, but who did it? It may be possible that it was created by North Korea at one of its dual-use factories.
The Pyongyang Bio-Technical Institute located at Pyongyang, has a facility to develop biological weapons, and according to one report in 2018, this institute is involved in such research. According to 38 North a website devoted to analysis about North Korea – Kim Jong Un visited such dual-use factories and the Pyongyang Bio-Technical Institute to encourage the development of Biological Weapon (BW) program. Moreover, North Korea went into complete lockdown, 3 days before the COVID-19 outbreak in China, and this information was also revealed by 38 North. If COVID-19 was a natural pandemic or a biological mishap of China, then how come North Korea came to know about it 3 days earlier?
Surprisingly, not a single COVID-19 case has been reported in North Korea, since its outbreak and most of the country’s newspapers like Chongnyon and The Pyongyang Times did not report any COVID-19 case. That’s why it can be understood that North Korea is hiding something and everything was pre-planned. COVID-19 could be a biological weapon deployed by North Korea in a clever way. As SARS outbreak already happened in Wuhan city of China in 2002, deploying a coronavirus bio-agent in the same city would make the World Health Organization (WHO), to believe that it was another SARS outbreak. Moreover, the presence of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan city, would arouse suspicion among the people about making biological weapons in China. That’s why, this could be a sabotage by North Korea to defame China and also to worsen its relations with other countries. North Korea is close to China and trespassing from North Korea to China is possible through Dandong city. So, anybody can enter China from North Korea and deploy a biological weapon with the help of a vector. The COVID-19 outbreak started in China during the end of December 2019, and Chinese New Year starts in February. So, North Korea knew that if they deploy the virus at Wuhan city during December 2019, then it would create an outbreak during the Chinese New Year and slowly spread to the USA during Easter. So, North Korea wanted the COVID-19 disaster to happen during the Chinese New Year and Easter days. Such precise calculations are possible using a supercomputer and computer simulations, and North Korea might have used such technology. North Korea lies between China and South Korea but how can it be possible that both China and South Korea gets COVID-19 except North Korea?
In May 2020, Kim Jong Un was seen while opening a new fertilizer factory. This time it was a phosphate fertilizer factory and it’s also a dual-use factory because phosphate fertilizer factories can also be used to extract uranium for nuclear weapons.
Plague Inc. (Video game) and Doomsday Clock:
A video game called Plague Inc., available on Windows, Android and iOS, is making the whole world question about its morality because this game is based on the concept of biological warfare. In this game the player needs to infect the countries with biological weapons and create a pandemic. The player wins the game only when no cure is found for the pandemic, and everyone in the world dies from it. It seems that the COVID-19 pandemic is resembling this game and because of that, the uses for this video game have increased in 2020. The game became the number one selling app in China, during the epidemic phase of the COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.
In March 2013, James Vaughan – the developer of Plague Inc., was invited at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to talk about Plague Inc. and CDC said they were interested in this game and appreciated the game instead of criticizing it. However, this game can also encourage people to involve in making biological weapons and such video games should not be encouraged.
The doomsday clock is also another shocking thing – It’s a virtual clock maintained by the members of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (https://thebulletin.org/) since 1947. The time on this clock represents the severity of the world’s current threats to humanity and how close the world is to doomsday (end of the world). This clock is set in January of each year and remains the same throughout the year. This clock has a minute and hour hands to represent the time close to midnight (12’O Clock). The hour hand remains fixed to 12’O clock and only the minute hand can move clockwise or anti-clockwise. Closer the minute hand goes to 12’O clock, closer cloud be the doomsday. The Clock’s original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight. The clock has been set backward and forward 24 times since then and the largest-ever number of minutes to midnight was 17 (in 1991) and in 1991 there were no reported threats to humanity. In that year the United States and Soviet Union signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), and the Soviet Union dissolved on December 26. This is the farthest from midnight the Clock has been since its inception, but On 24 January 2018, scientists moved the clock to two minutes to midnight, based on the moves by North Korea under Kim Jong-Un and the administration of Donald Trump in the US because it could increase the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation and also because of other dangers from “disruptive technologies” such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare. On 23 January 2020, it was moved forward to 100 seconds (1 minute 40 seconds) before midnight, based on the failure of world leaders to deal with increasingly likely threats of nuclear war, such as the end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the United States and Russia as well as increased tensions between the US and Iran, and the continued failure to combat climate change. This is the clock’s closest approach to midnight since 1947 and it could mean that the world is coming close to doomsday.
COVID-19 cannot be considered just to be a natural pandemic but could be a biological weapon from a guerrilla country like North Korea. As the country’s relation with China degraded due to its nuclear program, the coronavirus was deployed in China by North Korea to create a global pandemic and also to defame China. As North Korea was not having good relations with the USA, it also wanted to break China’s relationship with the USA. Whether COVID-19 was an indigenously planned attack or inspired by the Plague video game, it is a threat to the whole world and the doomsday clock is also showing a bad time this year. Therefore, we should not take North Korea lightly, because this country could one day conquer the whole world by causing a doomsday.
Debojit Acharjee (Software Engineer/Writer)