960328 Statement on Chemical Weapons Convention before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (by Warren Christopher)  Return to: Index of "Arms Control, Counter-terrorism and Military Affairs || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State
96/03/28:  Testimony: Chemical Weapons Convention
Released As Prepared for Delivery
Office of the Spokesman

Statement by Secretary of State Warren Christopher Before the Senate 
Foreign Relations Committee, March 28, 1996


Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am pleased to testify before 
you for the first time this year.  With my colleagues Secretary Perry 
and General Clark, I am here today to explain why prompt ratification of 
the Chemical Weapons Convention this year is in the overriding interest 
of the United States.     

President Clinton has put stopping the spread of weapons of mass 
destruction at the top of our efforts to protect and enhance the 
security of every American.  Working with this Committee and the 
Congress, we have achieved a number of important non-proliferation and 
arms control victories.  We secured the indefinite and unconditional 
extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  We shut down North 
Korea's dangerous nuclear program and sent it on its way to the scrap 
heap.  Thanks to the efforts of this Committee, the Senate ratified the 
START II treaty which deepens cuts in our Cold War nuclear arsenals.  
And the United States joined with 28 nations in the so-called Wassenaar 
Arrangement to control transfers of dangerous conventional arms and 
sensitive dual-use goods and technologies.  

These achievements would not have been possible without strong American 
leadership.  Indeed, only the United States has the power and influence 
to forge a strong global consensus against the proliferation of weapons 
that threaten the security and prosperity of the world.  That fact was 
brought home to me again during my recent trip to South America, where 
Argentina and Brazil have become our partners against proliferation and 
renounced the nuclear option.

Now the United States has the opportunity and responsibility  to lead 
the world toward another landmark achievement.  The ratification and 
entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention will reinforce the 
security of each and every American.  President Clinton again 
underscored the urgency of Senate approval in his State of the Union 
speech, and has made the Convention's ratification this year a top 

Ratification of this Convention not only represents a remarkable 
opportunity to strengthen our own security, it denies us no option that 
we would ever wish to exercise.  With the dramatic changes of the past 
decade, the threat of a massive chemical attack from the nations of the 
former Soviet Union has been drastically reduced.  Under American law, 
the United States is already required to destroy the vast majority of 
our chemical weapons stockpile by 2004.  By imposing an international 
legal obligation to destroy chemical weapons, the Chemical Weapons 
Convention puts all other states capable of deploying chemical weapons 
-- including Russia -- on the same footing as we are. 

President Yeltsin and other senior officials have publicly and privately 
reaffirmed Russia's commitment to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.  
Russia must still take additional concrete steps to follow through on 
these commitments and rectify remaining problems.  By ratifying the 
Convention, we will add the force and weight of the entire international 
community to our efforts to assure the destruction of Russian chemical 
stocks.  Our action will also spur other nations such as China to ratify 
and join the regime.

Today, Mr. Chairman, the main danger we face is the possible use of 
chemical weapons against U.S. forces deployed overseas and against our 
allies.  The case of Iraq underscores the danger posed by a brutal 
dictator possessing unconventional weapons.  We now know that Saddam's 
factories were capable of producing thousands of tons of deadly 
chemicals per year, including mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin and 
tabun.  After overcoming repeated Iraqi deception efforts, the United 
Nations has only recently confirmed that Saddam also produced large 
quantities of the highly toxic nerve agent VX.  The UN suspects that 
Iraq may still be hiding stocks of weaponized VX, which confirms the 
threat that Saddam continues to pose.

If we had had the Convention two decades ago, we might have been able to 
prevent or at least severely hamper Iraq's chemical weapons activities.  
We must act now.  Iran is engaged in a major effort to develop its 
chemical arsenal, and we believe that some 20 countries already have, or 
may be developing, chemical weapons.

The best protection against these weapons is to make it more difficult 
for hostile nations and groups to obtain and use them.  By blocking the 
supply and demand for chemical weapons, the Chemical Weapons Convention 
does just that.

First, all states that are Parties to the Convention will be required to 
give up their chemical weapons.  The Convention requires the destruction 
of existing stockpiles and bans virtually every aspect of a chemical 
weapons program, from development to stockpiling.  It puts in place a 
comprehensive inspection regime that includes intrusive challenge 
inspections, and commits parties to enact legislation to punish 
violators -- who also risk international sanctions.  No treaty is 100 
percent verifiable, but the Convention is carefully structured so that 
Parties tempted to cheat will never be sure they can evade detection and 
sanctions.   The sooner the Convention enters into force, the sooner 
those countries possessing or seeking chemical weapons will have to make 
a choice: abide by its provisions, or suffer the weight of penalties and 
sanctions imposed by the international community.  
Second, the Convention prohibits parties from helping any country try to 
circumvent its provisions.  By specifically banning trade in certain 
chemicals with countries that are not members, the Convention will make 
it much harder for non-Parties to acquire the key ingredients they need 
to produce chemical weapons.    

The Convention will also help us combat chemical terrorism.  The 
legislation it requires will strengthen the legal authority of countries 
to prosecute anyone who tries to acquire chemical weapons.  The 
destruction of chemical stockpiles will reduce the threat of stolen 
weapons.  And international transfers of many of the key chemicals that 
can be used to make these weapons will be controlled.  Indeed, it is no 
surprise that the Japanese government moved to ratify the Convention 
immediately after the attack in Tokyo.

American leadership was vital to complete the Convention.  Now it is 
required again if the Treaty is to enter into force successfully and we 
are to begin a transparent and orderly process to eliminate stockpiles, 
stop production and erect stronger barriers against proliferation.

So far, 160 countries have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, and 
49 have deposited instruments of ratification. When 65 countries have 
ratified, a 180-day countdown toward entry into force begins.  We are 
now only 16 ratifications away from that countdown, which could come 
within just a few months.  

If the United States is among the first 65 parties to ratify the 
Convention, we will retain our critical leadership role in the global 
fight against chemical weapons.  If we are not, we will lose the chance 
to ensure that our views are fully reflected in the final preparations 
for entry into force.  We will not be able to participate immediately in 
the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors 
compliance.  We will not be able to join immediately in international 

Failure to ratify the Convention promptly will jeopardize not only our 
security and international standing, but our prosperity.  Because the 
treaty restricts trade with non-Parties in certain chemicals, failure to 
ratify could cut off U.S. companies from their traditional trading 
partners.  Uncertainty about U.S. participation in this regime could 
lose business for American companies and lose jobs for American workers.  
Let me note that the U.S. chemical industry enthusiastically supports 
the treaty, having worked closely with our negotiators to help ensure 
that it will safeguard proprietary information.

Eliminating chemical weapons has long been a bipartisan goal. By law 
adopted during the Reagan Administration, our chemical weapons 
stockpiles are headed for destruction.  The Convention itself is the 
product of years of bipartisan effort.  President Bush took a strong 
personal interest in the treaty, which the United States signed during 
his Administration.  Reagan and Bush Administration officials, including 
Lawrence Eagleburger, Brent Scowcroft and Ronald Lehman, have recently 
reaffirmed their support for the treaty.

Mr. Chairman, the Clinton Administration supports this treaty because it 
is especially suited to the post-Cold War security environment, where 
the threat posed by chemical weapons is not limited to one state or 
group of states.  The Convention will simultaneously remove chemical 
weapons from the world's stockpiles and build up the barricades against 
their future acquisition. It will make it more difficult for others to 
threaten or use chemical weapons against the United States, our 
soldiers, our allies and friends.  

We signed the Convention in January 1993.  Since November 1993 the 
Senate has considered it thoroughly, holding ten hearings and submitting 
hundreds of questions for the record.  It is now time to bring the 
Convention to a vote.

We must not let pass this opportunity to strengthen our own security and 
affirm our leadership in nonproliferation.  On behalf of the President, 
I urge the Senate to give its advice and consent to the ratification of 
this vital treaty now.

Before ending my remarks, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a brief word 
about the Nuclear Safety Convention that is also before you.  Parties to 
this Convention are obligated not only to operate their nuclear 
facilities safely, but to report to other Parties on the steps that they 
have taken to do so.  The Convention will enhance our security and our 
safety.  It has been adopted by all of the other G-7 participants at the 
Nuclear Summit next month in Moscow, where it will be high on the 
agenda.  I urge this Committee to give the Convention prompt 

Thank you very much.


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