U.S. intelligence shows that China has conducted “human testing” on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with “biologically enhanced capabilities,” the top U.S. intelligence official told NBC News Friday.
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, included the explosive claim in a long Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he made the case that China poses the pre-eminent national security threat to the U.S.
“There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power,” wrote Ratcliffe, a Republican former member of Congress from Texas.
His office and the CIA did not immediately respond to requests to elaborate on the notion that China sought to create “super soldiers” of the sort depicted in Hollywood films like “Captain America,” “Bloodshot” and “Universal Soldier.”
The technologically ambitious country has been working to develop “soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities” as part of a scheme to take over “the planet economically, militarily and technologically.”
The intelligence honcho gave no other details about the human testing — but China has ambitions to use biotechnology during war through the gene-editing technology, scholars said in a research paper last year.
Ratcliffe’s office and the CIA didn’t immediately return a request for details about the program.
But Chinese researchers in recent years have experimented with the gene-editing tool CRISPR — short for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” — to treat diseases and potentially enhance human performance.
By contrast, Western scientists consider it unethical to manipulate genes to boost the performance of healthy people.
“While the potential leveraging of CRISPR to increase human capabilities on the future battlefield remains only a hypothetical possibility at the present, there are indications that Chinese military researchers are starting to explore its potential,” wrote the scholars, including Elsa Kania, an expert on Chinese defense technology.
“Chinese military scientists and strategists have consistently emphasized that biotechnology could become a ‘new strategic commanding heights of the future Revolution in Military Affairs.’”
In the 2011 flick “Captain America,” the character Steve Rogers undergoes an experiment in which he’s given “super soldier serum” to increase his strength and cure his ailments.
The film Universal Soldier, starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme, tells the tale of soldiers who are genetically enhanced. The troops are capable of healing quickly and are stronger than normal men.
In Robocop, Peter Weller portrays a US police officer who is killed by criminals, but whose brain and body are used by scientists to create a cyborg policeman, equipped with super strength.