July 23, 1992


Long ago, in a far different international environment than prevails today, this conference began work on a convention to eliminate chemical weapons from the face of the earth. The effort has been uneven and - most of us would agree - far too slow, despite the guidance of dedicated and gifted Ad Hoc Committee Chairmen and the hard work of delegations. We all have our own views on the reasons for the CW Convention's long gestation period. That is not the question, however, today. Now, under the leadership of our distinguished colleague Ambassador von Wagner of Germany, we have an excellent chance of finishing this work and opening the CW Convention for signature by the entire community of nations. This will be the first great achievement of this unique multilateral arms control and disarmament negotiating body.

Sometime during the next two weeks, each participant and observer in our conference must decide whether it can accept the chairman's draft final text.

Let me say, on behalf of the United States, that our answer to this question is "yes".

We can accept the draft convention text contained in document CD/CW/WP.400/REV. 1 in its entirety. Our decision was not reached easily. In many important respects, US preferred positions have been substantially watered down or are completely absent. For example, the text before us does not allow a state that is attacked with CW to retaliate with chemical weapons even though it still has stockpiles available, nor can a state retain a small security CW stockpile until all CW-capable states have joined the treaty.

Furthermore, the text does not provide for automatic initiation of a challenge inspection whenever a request is made, nor is the presence of observers from the requesting state assured. The text does not reflect the US position that there should be limits on the number of challenge inspections a state must receive each year, that trade restrictions should be applied against non-parties, and that the responsibility for destruction of any chemical weapons whatever on a state's territory should rest entirely on that state.

I could go on and on with a long list of specific areas where the text does not reflect our preferred positions. In some of these cases the United States has made concessions to facilitate progress. In fact, we have made a whole series of concessions over the last several years. In other cases the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Ambassador von Wagner, has proposed a different approach to resolve a controversial issue where positions had not been reconciled after long debate.

The fact is, that the text before the Ad Hoc Committee reflects a fragile and painfully achieved balance among many different positions and many different issues. While we would prefer different provisions in many areas of the text, we have decided after close study that certain sacrifice on our part is necessary to achieve broad-based agreement, and that the remaining balance adequately protects our security interests.

The Ad Hoc Committee has debated the controversial issues at length. I doubt that going through any of them again will result in a better array of compromises. On the contrary, opening up a controversial issue could well disrupt the fragile balance of interests and positions as states again try to tilt the balance in their own direction. If this happens, I can promise you that the United States will put forward its own preferred positions on several critical issues. But I am also aware that renewed debate on controversial issues could mean failure to finish the convention this year.

The United States does not rule out further changes to the text. We are prepared to consider seriously proposals from delegations on points they consider fundamental to their interests. But, we fully endorse Ambassador von Wagner's position that changes to the draft text can only be made by consensus. We know of no other way to achieve a text that all delegations can support.

After many years of negotiations, we are close to fulfilling the hopes of our conference and the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee this year. We have, however, only until August 7 to finish work on the text. We are convinced that careful study by other participants in the CW negotiations will lead them to the same conclusion that we have reached. We call upon other participants - both members and non-members - who have not yet announced their position on the chairman's text to do so this week. Let us seize the historic opportunity that is before us.