Conversion Survey, 1997: Global Disarmament and Disposal of Surplus Weapons

By Herbert Wulf; Bonn International Center for Conversion | Go to book overview
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A number of developments are expected to unfold in the year 1997 with respect to how countries will proceed with national plans to dispose of chemical weapons. It is of particular importance for the United States and Russia--with a combined chemical arsenal of approximately 70,000 agent tons--to join the other countries in ratifying the Convention. If they place themselves under the international jurisdiction of the treaty, chemical weapon destruction must occur under a tight time regime and be completed by the year 2007, with a possible 5-year extension. In the case of their failure to ratify however, it is hoped that the two countries will proceed in the direction of unilaterally eliminating the threat of an aging chemical weapon arsenal. The US has already made progress on this path with two disposal facilities in operation. Russia is behind, largely for financial reasons. Four countries are lending a helping hand to get a Russian chemical weapon disposal program up and running; however. Western support falls short of Russian expectations. Delays in the Russian program have also occurred due to difficulties in convincing communities that destruction will occur under safe conditions. The same problems are weighing down the process in the United States and consequently adjustments in the national plan have already been made. In addition to arguing that countries should join together in meeting international obligations for disarmament, proponents of the Convention can also rightfully argue that, the longer chemical weapons remain in storage, the greater the difficulties and complexities of handling them, the greater the costs incurred, and the greater the risk of accidents or leaking munitions.At the end of 1996 the issue of surplus chemical weapons looked like an unfinished puzzle with most of the pieces on the board but not yet in place. As more information becomes available and experience is gained in this field, perhaps the puzzle will become less complicated in time and additional lessons can be learned on how to tackle the problems of chemical weapon disposal.
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BICC. See: Bonn International Center for Conversion.
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Chemical Demilitarization Update. 1995. Special Edition. Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD: Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization. July.
Chemical Weapons Working Group. 1996. "Defense Appropriations Committees approve funding alternatives to incineration of chemical weapons." Press Release, 14 September.
Coats, Dan. 1996. "Letter to The Honorable Togo D. West, Secretary of the Army, The Pentagon, Washington, DC." Capitol Hill Press Database. 24 September.
Conference on Disarmament. 1988. "Past Production of Chemical Warfare Agents in the United Kingdom." Working Paper CD/856. Geneva, 11 August.
_____. 1991. "Destruction of CW Stocks, Weapons and Associated Plant." Working Paper CD/CW/WP.373. Geneva, 21 October.
_____. 1992. "Some Information on Discovered Chemical Weapons Abandoned in China by a Foreign State." Working Paper CD/CW/WP.384. Geneva, 18 February.
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Edwards, Rob. 1995. "Danger from the deep." New Scientist. 18 November. p. 16.
Evans, Peter. 1996. "Background Paper: Destruction of Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China." Bonn: BICC.
FAFVC. See: Federal Armed Forces Verification Center.
Federal Armed Forces Verification Center. 1995a. "Facility Agreement: Incineration Plant." Munster: FAFVC.


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