A Chinese Air Force officer on Saturday accused the U.S. government of creating the new strain of bird flu now afflicting parts of China as a biological warfare attack.
People’s Liberation Army Sr. Col. Dai Xu said the United States released the H7N9 bird flu virus into China in an act of biological warfare, according to a posting on his blog on Saturday.
The charge was first reported in the state-run Guangzhou newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily and then picked up by several news outlets in Asia.
The accusation of U.S. biological warfare against China comes as the Pentagon is seeking closer military relations with China. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is set to travel to China for talks with Chinese military leaders later this month.
Dai is a military strategist who in the past has been outspoken in seeking to foment conflict between China and the United States. He told the Global Times in August that China should go to war over U.S. support for Japan’s claims to the disputed Senkaku Islands.
Writing on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site akin to Twitter, Dai stated that the new bird flu strain was designed as a biological weapon similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which he also claimed was developed as a U.S. bio-weapon, that affected the country in 2003.
The North’s latest warning, issued by its Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, urged foreign companies and tourists to leave South Korea.
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to a thermonuclear war due to the evermore undisguised hostile actions of the United States and the South Korean puppet warmongers and their moves for a war against” North Korea, the committee said in a statement carried by state media on Tuesday.
There was no sign of an exodus of foreign companies or tourists from South Korea.
White House spokesman Jay Carney called the statement “more unhelpful rhetoric.”
“It is unhelpful, it is concerning, it is provocative,” he said.
The warning appeared to be an attempt to scare foreigners into pressing their governments to pressure Washington and Seoul to act to avert a conflict.
Analysts see a direct attack on Seoul as extremely unlikely, and there are no overt signs that North Korea’s army is readying for war, let alone a nuclear one.
North Korea has been girding for a showdown with the US and South Korea, its wartime foes, for months.
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least 37 and injured hundreds more in a sparsely populated area in southern Iran on Tuesday, Iranian officials said, adding that it did not damage a nuclear plant in the region.
The report said the earthquake struck the town of Kaki some 96 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Bushehr, a town on the Persian Gulf that is home of Iran’s first nuclear power plant, built with Russian help.
“No damage was done to Bushehr power plant,” Bushehr provincial governor Fereidoun Hasanvand told state TV. He said 37 people had died so far and 850 were injured, including 100 who were hospitalized.
Shahpour Rostami, the deputy governor of Bushehr province, told state TV that rescue teams have been deployed to Shonbeh.
Three helicopters were sent to survey the damaged area before sunset, said Mohammad Mozaffar, the head of Iran’s Red Crescent rescue department. He said damage was particularly bad in the village of Baghan.
Kaki resident Mondani Hosseini told The Associated Press that people had run out into the streets out of fear.
Dozens of aftershocks have been reported by the official IRNA news agency since the earthquake, which occurred at 16:22 local time, 11:58 GMT.