Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Chemical Weapons Program to Miss Deadline

Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Chemical Weapons Program to Miss Deadline

Article excerpt

U.S. OFFICIALS INFORMED the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last month that the United States will not meet a key interim deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to destroy nearly half of its chemical weapons holdings. Under the CWC, the United States had agreed to destroy 45 percent of its stockpile by April 29, 2004, but U.S. officials are now seeking an extension to December 2007.

The new deadline means the United States, possessing the world's second-largest chemical weapons stockpile, will not meet the CWC's final date of April 2007 for destroying 100 percent of the stockpile and will have to ask for another extension in the future. The convention allows member states to request up to a five-year extension of the final deadline.

Washington's appeal follows on the heels of multiple requests by Russia, which has the world's largest arsenal of chemical weapons, to extend its deadline for destroying the country's 40,000-ton stockpile. Russia destroyed one percent of its chemical weapons in April 2003, three years after the original deadline, and is slated to have just 20 percent completed by 2007. (See ACT, June 2003.)

Washington's request was forwarded for consideration to the OPCW Conference of the States Parties, scheduled to convene Oct. 20-24.

The Department of Defense blames U.S. delays on "unresolved political and operational issues that forced shutdowns or postponed start-up dates," according to a Sept. 3 statement. To date, the U.S. program has destroyed approximately one-quarter of the total declared stockpile of 31,500 tons. …

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