Is China secretly conducting nuclear tests?
AS if lying, covering up, and attempting to silence doctors who tried to warn the world of the impending coronavirus catastrophe were not enough, now some intelligence figures are concerned that Beijing may be a nuclear scofflaw, too.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, US officials are now deeply concerned that China may be secretly conducting low-level nuclear tests - in violation of its previous statements pledging strict adherence to an international ban on such activity.
The evidence, according to those cited, includes high levels of activity at China's Lop Nur test site in a desolate region near a former salt lake in the country's west where the country has previously tested nuclear weapons - including its first atomic weapon codenamed "596" in 1964.
Those familiar with the report detailing the activity say it also points to apparent extensive excavations work and reports of special containment chambers, as well as periodic and unexplained dropouts in data transmission from monitors on Chinese soil designed to detect seismic activity and radiation.
At the heart of the question is whether China is violating the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Concluded in 1996, the international agreement allows countries to perform a number of activities to ensure the safety of their nuclear arsenals - but forbids any controlled nuclear explosions.
While not enough nations have signed the treaty to make it globally binding, China (as well as the US) has in the past said it is abiding by its terms.
In May of last year, Lt Gen Robert Ashley Jr told an audience at Washington's Hudson Institute that China was likely to double its nuclear arsenal of an estimated 300 weapons over the next decade.
The news comes amid further reports that bolster the theory that the COVID-19 coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan.
On Thursday, Fox News reported further evidence that suggested the virus escaped in a mishap as Chinese scientists, ironically, raced to demonstrate their ability to identify and combat viruses.