USIS Washington 

17 September 1998


(Twenty countries suspected of CW program development) (1160)

(The following factsheet was issued by the U.S. Arms Control and
Disarmament Agency on September 9, 1998.)

The Chemical Weapons Convention is a global treaty that bans an entire
class of weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons. The CWC bans
the production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical
weapons. It entered into force April 29, 1997.

Chemical weapons pose a threat not just to our military but to
innocent civilians, as the 1995 poison gas attack in the Japanese
subway showed. Certain aspects of the Chemical Weapons Convention,
including its law enforcement requirements and nonproliferation
provisions, strengthen existing efforts to fight chemical terrorism.
The CWC is a central element of U.S. arms control and nonproliferation
policy that strengthens U.S. national security and contributes to
global stability.

Under the CWC, each State Party undertakes never, under any
circumstances, to:

-- develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical
weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to

   -- use chemical weapons;

-- engage in any military preparation to use chemical weapons; and

-- assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any
activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

In addition each State Party undertakes, all in accordance with the
provisions of the Convention, to:

-- destroy the chemical weapons it owns or possesses or that are
located in any place under its jurisdiction or control;

-- destroy all chemical weapons it abandoned on the territory of
another State Party; and

-- destroy any chemical weapons production facilities it owns or
possesses or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or

Today, we suspect some 20 countries have or may be developing chemical
weapons. These weapons are attractive to countries or individuals
seeking a mass-destruction capability because they are relatively
cheap to produce and do not demand the elaborate technical
infrastructure needed to make nuclear weapons. It is therefore all the
more vital to establish an international bulwark against the
acquisition and use of these weapons.

The CWC is the most ambitious treaty in the history of arms control.
Whereas most arms control treaties in the past have only limited
weapons, the CWC requires their outright elimination. Parties to the
Convention must destroy any and all chemical weapons and chemical
weapons production facilities.

The CWC penalizes countries that do not join. Entry into force of the
CWC served to isolate the small number of non-participating states as
international pariahs and inhibit their access to certain
treaty-controlled chemicals. Since many of these chemicals are not
only required to make chemical weapons but have important uses in
commercial industry, the hold-outs have economic as well as political
incentives to join the treaty regime.

The Chemical Weapons Convention and Industry

The CWC is the first arms control treaty to widely affect the private
sector. Although the United States does not manufacture chemical
weapons, it does produce, process, and consume a number of chemicals
that can be used to produce chemical weapons. For example, a solvent
used in ballpoint pen ink can be easily converted into mustard gas,
and a chemical involved in production of fire retardants and
pesticides can be used to make nerve agents. Thus, any Treaty to ban
chemical weapons must monitor commercial facilities that produce,
process or consume dual-use chemicals to ensure they are not diverted
for prohibited purposes.

The CWC provisions covering chemical facilities were developed with
the active participation of industry representatives. The verification
regime is intrusive enough to build confidence that member states are
complying with the treaty, yet it respects industry's legitimate
interests in safeguarding proprietary information and avoiding
disruption of production.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fred
Webber, President and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the Chemical
Manufacturers Association, said, "We have studied this treaty in great
detail; we have put it to the test. We think the CWC is a good deal
for American industry....The Chemical Weapons Convention protects
vital commercial interests. I know because we helped design the
reporting forms. And I know because we helped develop inspection
procedures that protect trade secrets while providing full assurance
that chemical weapons are not being produced...The Chemical Weapons
Convention makes good business sense and good public policy."

The CWC and the Military

The CWC specifically allows Parties to maintain chemical weapons
defensive programs and does not constrain non-CW military responses to
a chemical weapons attack. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said in Senate testimony, "Desert Storm
proved that retaliation in kind is not required to deter the use of
chemical weapons." He explained, "the U.S. military's ability to deter
chemical weapons in a post-CW (Cold War) world will be predicated upon
both a robust chemical weapons defense capability, and the ability to
rapidly bring to bear superior and overwhelming military force in
retaliation against a chemical attack." As (then) Defense Secretary
Cheney said during the Gulf War, and as former Defense Secretary Perry
reiterated, the U.S. response to a chemical weapons attack would be
"absolutely overwhelming" and "devastating."

CWC Implementation

With or without the CWC, the United States is already destroying its
chemical weapons in accordance with a law Congress passed more than a
decade ago requiring destruction of the bulk of the U.S. chemical
weapons stockpile. That process is under way, with completion slated
by the end of 2004. The CWC now requires all States Parties that
possess chemical weapons to destroy their stockpiles by April 2007.

The U.S. is a member of the Executive Council of the Organization for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in The Hague, that will
oversee implementation of the CWC. U.S. citizens serve as
international inspectors and in other key positions relating to
verification of the treaty. In the United States, the Department of
Commerce expects to publish regulations pertaining to CWC verification
after enactment of the CWC Implementation Act.

The CWC puts into place a legally binding international standard
outlawing the acquisition and possession, as well as use, of chemical
weapons. The Convention not only requires States Parties to destroy
their chemical weapons arsenals but prohibits them from transferring
chemical weapons to other countries or assisting anyone in prohibited
activities. Combined with restrictions on chemical trade in
CWC-controlled chemicals with non-parties, these provisions increase
the costs and difficulties of acquiring chemical weapons for states
that choose not to participate.

Universal adherence and complete abolition of chemical weapons won't
be achieved immediately. But the Convention slows and even reverses
chemical weapons proliferation by isolating the small number of rogue
state that refuse to join the regime, limiting their access to
precursor chemicals, and bringing international political and economic
pressures to bear if such states continue their chemical weapons