U.S. May Request Chemical Weapons Convention Inspections

Article excerpt

THE UNITED STATES is considering calling for challenge inspections under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) but is concerned about the management of the treaty's implementing body, according to a U.S. official.

During a February 11 interview with Arms Control Today, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said that Washington is "thinking about the possibility of asking for challenge inspections." (See p. 3.) In a separate interview, another administration official said that the United States is "actively considering" the issue and has identified "some candidates" for inspection.

To resolve concerns about another member state's compliance with the CWC, which bans chemical arms, a state-party can request the convention's implementing body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to investigate a suspect facility or activity. However, to date, no state has ever requested a challenge inspection.

Asked why the United States has not yet called for a challenge inspection, Bolton said that the OPCW "is a very troubled organization for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its management. There are a whole host of issues raised by challenge inspections that require our attention and require also an effectively operating OPCW."

The undersecretary added that the United States is currently focusing on the OPCW's management "because, if those questions are not resolved, the organization itself will not be able to function effectively, and the whole CWC will not be able to function effectively.... [U]ntil we resolve these management issues, I think it would be risky to put a big burden on the OPCW."

Bolton's remarks follow a January 24 speech he gave to the UN Conference on Disarmament, in which he said that challenge inspections are a "flexible and indispensable tool that, if viewed realistically and used judiciously, can be instrumental in achieving the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention. …