The independent resource on global security

9. Chemical weapon developments




The crucial question for 1993 was: Does the overwhelming support for the
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) affect the behaviour of states and chemical
weapon (CW) proliferation?

There was no significant change in the number of countries alleged to be
attempting to acquire or to already possess a CW capability or arsenal. Such
allegations were made about a number of countries, including Libya and North
Korea. Libya was alleged to be attempting to construct a second CW production
plant with help from foreign countries. In the case of North Korea, suspicion
about its CW and biological weapon (BW) programmes may be fuelled by its
suspected activities in the nuclear field.

Currently well-functioning export controls, such as those of the Australia
Group, have to be reconsidered taking into account the demands of some
countries that such policies be abolished under the CWC. The dissolution of
COCOM was not unexpected, but a common export control policy which includes the
new republics on the territory of the former Soviet Union has yet to emerge.

In 1993 there was intense debate about allegations that Iraq had used CW
against the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq, which could not be confirmed by the
United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM). Allegations of CW use in
the former Yugoslavia multiplied but were not confirmed; and new evidence
surfaced in 1993 about an alleged CW programme. International procedures to
verify allegations of use remain difficult to apply; a situation which will
only change under the CWC.

The destruction of the US CW stockpile is envisaged to be completed by 2004 at
a total cost of over $8.6 billion, according to 1993 estimates. The Johnston
Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS) facility in the Pacific finished
its operation verification tests, thereby proving that incineration technology
can be employed to destroy CW.

Russia is still faced with the challenge of completing its initial CW
destruction programme. Local opposition from communities where destruction is
planned and major financial difficulties seem likely to delay the process.
International support, both financial and technical, is increasing but more is

The number of states experiencing problems with old and abandoned CW is
increasing, and states have begun to realize that the removal and destruction
of these weapons will be very expensive. There is now a clearer picture of past
dumping of CW at sea, particularly in the Baltic Sea, and of what was dumped in
the immediate period after World War II. Efforts to clean these areas will be
very expensive and are currently unfeasible.

The experience gained in the 1991 Persian Gulf War requires that more emphasis
be given to BW protection and to early warning.

In 1993 questions were raised in the USA about whether health problems suffered
by Gulf War veterans could be linked to the possible release of CW agents
during the war. Early reports of illness were consistently denied by the US
Government. To some extent, the political response is reminiscent of the Agent
Orange debate.