This week the State Department released the unclassified version of a report on specific countries’ “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Committees” (henceforth referred to as the Compliance Report). One section of this report covers compliance issues with the Biological and Toxins Weapon Convention (BWC, aka BTWC). The Compliance Report indicated that following State Parties and signatories to the BWC were in compliance: Egypt, India, Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan. In addition, India and Pakistan have strengthened their export control on biological agents and Iraq has a National Monitoring Directorate that focuses on BWC compliance and confidence building measures. Taiwan, while not a State Party or signatory to the BWC, was also analyzed and found to be in compliance. It is important to note that there are no verification requirements in the BWC, and the effectiveness of such requirements have been questioned by the United States during both the Bush and Obama administrations (see Ellen Tauscher’s 2009 Statement on biological weapons). Voluntary Confidence Building Measures (CBM), such as information exchanges and transparency about dual use and high containment research conducted within a country, are currently in the BWC, but, since they are voluntary, these measures are not always followed and therefore, as David Hoffman in Foreign Policy magazine noted, “…do not provide much confidence.” Below is a summary of countries in the 2010 Compliance Report that have questionable compliance, or not in compliance with the BWC .
State Parties to the BWC in Compliance, but with Less Certainty
China, Iran and the Russian Federation, all State Parties to the BWC, were not explicitly found to be in violation of the BWC. These parties were found to be engaged in dual use research, which is not prohibited in the BWC. The Compliance Report noted that China has yet to release information about their biological weapons program from before the ratification of the BWC, as requested in the BWC’s voluntary Confidence Building Measures (CBM), and they have not documented the destruction of its past biological munitions. It is important to note that article II of the BWC requires the destruction of biological munitions within 9 months of ratification, but it does not require documentation. The 2005 Compliance Report claimed that “China maintains some elements of an offensive BW capability in violation of its BWC obligations.” China rejects these allegations.
Cuba was found to be in compliance during this reporting period, though there are unresolved issues in the 2003 and 2005 Compliance Reports which indicated that Cuba has the technical capability and “… at least a limited, developmental offensive biological warfare research and development effort.”
The Compliance Report stated that Iran was in compliance, but that their information “…indicates [that] Iran has remained engaged in dual-use activities that include procuring dual-use biological equipment and materials, conducting research involving BW-related pathogens and genetic engineering, and developing mechanisms that could be used to deliver biological agents.” These dual use activities are not in violation of the treaty, but could be worrisome to states with poor Iranian diplomatic relations.
The Compliance Report indicates that the Russian Federation was engaged in dual use research, but whether or not the country was in violation of the BWC remains “unclear.” Russia has acknowledged past BWC violations by the Soviet Union, but the issue still remains as to whether or not they destroyed the Soviet era biological munitions and diverted the inherited programs to peaceful purposes as required by the BWC. Past Compliance Reports (2003 & 2005) indicate that Russia has “… continued to violate the BWC.”
Not in Compliance
The Compliance Report states that North Korea, a state party to the BWC, “…may still consider the use of biological weapons as a military option, and that it has continued its past effort to acquire specialized equipment, materials, and expertise, some of which could support biological weapon development.” North Korea is also not open to any of the voluntary confidence building measures in the BWC.
Syria is a signatory to, but has not ratified the BWC. It is therefore not bound to any requirements in the BWC, but if it was, the United States’ government claims that they would be in violation. In 2004, the Syrian president indicated that it was entitled to the use of biological or chemical weapons as deterrents, and current information indicates their statement still holds true. The United States government has also authorized sanctions against any entities that transfer to or from Syria in the 2005 “Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act,” since those entities are considered to be Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferators.