WMD Arms Control Agreements in the Post-September 11 Security Environment: Part of the 'Counter-Terrorism Toolbox'

Article excerpt

[This think piece commences with consideration of how the major WMD arms control treaties and arrangements that were negotiated during the Cold War have been strengthened since early 2002 in response to the post-September 11 security environment. This strengthening has occurred through universalisation and more effective national implementation measures, including: domestic legislation; security of dual-use materials, equipment and technology; and outreach and codes of conduct for the relevant scientific communities. This think piece charts the recent history of arms control agreements and highlights the importance of cooperative efforts between international players, relevant domestic government agencies, and between governments and the relevant scientific and industrial communities. It concludes that while these arms control agreements have become a valuable part of the 'counter-terrorism toolbox', there is still a lot more to be done if the maximum benefits are to be obtained from these agreements in the current security environment.]


I   Introduction
II  Activities Related to Preventing Nuclear Terrorism
      A The Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol
      B Dual-Use Nuclear Related Export Controls
      C The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials
      D Enhanced Security of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Materials
      E The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of
        Nuclear Terrorism
III Activities Related to Preventing Bioterrorism
      A The Biological Weapons Convention
      B Biological Weapons Related Export Controls
      C Security of Pathogens and Toxins
IV  Activities Related to Chemical Terrorism
      A The Chemical Weapons Convention
      B Chemical Weapons Related Export Controls
      C Security of Toxic Chemicals including Chemical Weapons
V   UN Security Council Resolution 1540
VI  Reflections
VII Concluding Comments


One of the most serious current international security concerns is that of a non-state actor or terrorist group acquiring weapons of mass destruction ('WMD'), which are usually understood to refer to nuclear, biological and chemical ('NBC') weapons, and their means of delivery. (1) There have been attempts by terrorist groups to acquire and use WMD since the 1970s, including the Aum Shinrikyo's attempts to acquire and use anthrax and sarin in Tokyo in the early to mid-1990s. (2) However, since September 11 and the anthrax letter incidents of late 2001, the attempts of terrorist groups to acquire non-conventional weapons have become a focus of particular attention. Reports that al Qaeda has been seeking to acquire or develop improvised chemical and biological weapons, as well as nuclear weapons and radioactive dispersal devices, have exacerbated these concerns. (3) There have also been recent reports of the discovery of a rudimentary chemical and biological manual in a Jemaah Islamiyah safe house in the Philippines, indicating that terrorists in Australia's region share similar ambitions. (4)

The three primary arms control treaties related to WMD are the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons ('Non-Proliferation Treaty'), (5) the 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction ('Biological Weapons Convention') (6) and the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction ('Chemical Weapons Convention'). (7) These treaties were negotiated during the Cold War to limit the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons, (8) and to achieve the prohibition and total elimination of biological and chemical weapons, respectively. (9) The disarmament and non-proliferation objectives of these treaties have been supported by a number of other international agreements, including the export control arrangements of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Australia Group. …


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