An employee at the U.S. embassy in Guangzhou, China allegedly suffered mild traumatic brain injury after hearing a vague and abnormal sound, which was revealed in a May 23 health alert released by the embassy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to draw similarities between the incident and a 2016 incident in Havana, Cuba, where U.S. embassy personnel were sickened from an alleged sonic attack.
Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “The medical indications are very similar, and entirely consistent with, the medical indications that were taking place to Americans working in Cuba.” He noted the United States sent medical teams, and is “working to figure out what took place, both in Havana and now in China as well.”
The incident elicited all forms of reactions from news outlets. Yet, the common narrative now floating around is an attempt to write the attack off, not as a sonic attack, but instead as a slip-up with electronic monitoring technology that frames the U.S. government response as a hasty conclusion and overreaction.
What this prevailing narrative fails to note, however, is the long history of such weapons in the Chinese military arsenal. Sonic and ultrasonic weapons (USW) fall under the broader category of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), which also include a range of weapons on the electromagnetic spectrum. They can be used for many purposes including making a targeted person feel ill, damaging a targeted person’s internal organs, or for destroying electronics equipment.