The COVID-19 virus originated in China, National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told lawmakers yesterday, adding that intelligence indicated that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is “ill,” but remains in control of the nation.
Chiu was responding to questions by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) and other lawmakers at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Tsai asked Chiu about the bureau’s intelligence regarding the source of COVID-19 and whether it originated in China or the US, as has been suggested by some Chinese officials.
“All of the initial information pointed to the virus coming out of the Huanan Seafood Market [in Wuhan], there is no doubt about it,” Chiu said.
“So the virus originated in China?” Tsai asked, to which Chiu replied: “Yes, that is correct.”
Tsai asked about the possibility that the novel coronavirus was deployed as a form of biological warfare, or if it was simply a chance happening.
Tsai showed a photograph of a P4 — the highest biosecurity rating — laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, asking if it was possible COVID-19 leaked from the facility amid research conducted there.
“China has two such P4 research laboratories, one in Wuhan and another in Harbin,” Chiu said. “However, we are not yet certain whether China was conducting virus research and experiments at other laboratories in secret locations.”
Chiu said that the bureau does not have a unit focused on gathering intelligence on biological warfare activity, promising to set one up and recruit talent to coordinate work gathering intelligence on the subject.
There are many reasons for the outbreak, including poor hygiene, which leads to weakened immunity, Chiu said.
“Once the virus got started, it infected people quickly and the situation got out of control,” he said.
“However, it is not clear where or when the virus originated,” he said.
After lawmakers asked about Kim, Chiu said that the North Korean leader had fallen ill.
“So [Kim] has been sick, but he is still alive?” Tsai asked.
Chiu smiled and did not elaborate.
DPP Legislator Wang Ding-wu (王定宇) also asked about Kim’s condition.
“My answer is from the intelligence that is available and it is not an opinion,” Chiu said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers asked Chiu to explain how the bureau had obtained the intelligence on North Korea.
Chiu said that there was a lot of speculation surrounding Kim’s condition, but he could not talk openly about it, as it could disclose the bureau’s sources in North Korea.
If necessary, he would discuss the matter with legislators in private, Chiu said.
After Chiu left the meeting, KMT Legislator Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) asked how the bureau knew that Kim was sick, but still alive.
NSB Deputy Director-General Hu Mu-yuan (胡木源) said that Chiu’s answer was based on media reports and not his opinion.
“Right now, all the available information is unable to confirm the status of Kim Jong-un’s health... From what we know, Kim is still in charge and in control of North Korea’s military and its government,” Hu said.
Earlier in the session, Chiu said that China could be planning hostile moves against Taiwan.
“When the pandemic subsides, Beijing will want to diffuse the domestic pressure it faces over COVID-19, so it might shift the focus from China’s internal problems to outside,” he said. “Therefore, Beijing is likely to make aggressive, threatening moves against Taiwan.”
“The bureau is closely monitoring the situation, as China is likely to put pressure on Taiwan through military and international affairs, and also step up its economic pressure,” Chiu said.
Taiwan’s should bolster its military defenses and alertness on island outposts in the South China Sea, as China has been aggressively expanding its military presence in the region, he said.
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