September 15, 1992


It is an honor for me to address this important Second Review Conference of the Convention On The Prohibition Of Military Or Any Other Hostile Use Of Environmental Modification Techniques. On behalf of the US Delegation, I congratulate you, Mr. President, on your election. You have already demonstrated your decisive leadership and effective diplomacy in moving the conference toward a successful conclusion, and I reiterate that our delegation will give you its full cooperation and support in achieving that objective.

As I am sure distinguished delegates here are well aware, the United States was one of the original authors of the Environmental Modification Convention. In 1974, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to begin bilateral discussions on international measures to prohibit the use of environmental modification in warfare. On August 21, 1975, the United States and the Soviet Union tabled separate but identical texts of a draft convention for consideration by the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament.

The ensuing negotiations on the Environmental Modification Convention illustrated once again that persistence, patience, and a spirit of compromise are the necessary ingredients for fashioning a viable, realistic arms control measure. As with most such documents, not everyone was completely satisfied with every clause of the resulting convention. Some would have liked the treaty to be quite a different instrument. Nevertheless, I believe most observers will agree that the convention has served the international community well in the years since it was opened for signature in May 1977. A norm has been established that has not been broken despite the challenging and unsettling decade and a half through which we have passed. With this in mind, my delegation believes that this review conference will discharge its duty in an exemplary manner if we follow the lead of the 1984 Review Conference and endorse the text of the convention and its understandings as originally negotiated.

Since the 1984 Review Conference, the international scene has changed in so many respects that policy planners in our foreign ministries scarcely have time for a coffee break. The superpower rivalry that conditioned almost all international relations has dissolved. New states have appeared, old ones have disappeared. In this new international scheme the Environmental Modification Convention nevertheless retains importance today for the same reason it was originally negotiated -- that is, for its far-sighted concern for evolving technology and its application to warfare. As Acting Secretary Vance said when he signed the convention here in Geneva: "We scarcely need to remind ourselves that in our era technology can advance to make possible actions which could cause hitherto inconceivable environmental consequences.

The United States believes the Environmental Modification Convention has functioned effectively and satisfactorily. Since the last Review Conference, there have been no developments that might have had an impact on its continued effectiveness. There is no net benefit to be gained by changing the convention; amendments are likely to do more harm than good, whether they amend the treaty directly or have the functional effect of an amendment through attempted reinterpretation.

It is my delegation's conviction that the Environmental Modification Convention remains pointed in the right direction -- toward the future -- as a clear and realistic prohibition against the military or hostile use of environmental modification techniques. For this reason, we are somewhat disturbed by the charges that ENMOD has in its short life somehow become irrelevant.

Since the convention came into effect, the more terrifying techniques envisioned by the negotiatiors have not generally become technically possible, although in fact, some -- such as rainmaking -- are potentially feasible. However, we doubt that when the convention was signed, any of its signatories would have confidently expected that such techniques would be well advanced in less than twenty years. At the same time, we recognize that all countries, like our own, have become more acutely aware of the fragility of the environment and seek measures to address environmental problems.

For these reasons, some states might look at the convention to consider what environmental problems it might resolve. But we should not try to make the convention something it is not. The Environmental Modification Convention is not an Environmental Protection Treaty; it is not a treaty to prohibit damage to the environment resulting from armed conflict. Rather, the Environmental Modification Convention fills a special, but important niche reflecting the international community's consensus that the environment itself should not be used as an instrument of war. Based on the text and the negotiating record, our delegation believes the Environmental Modification Convention addresses new scientific techniques that can turn natural processes of the environment into weapons. As such, the Environmental Modification Convention is one element of a larger international legal regime addressing the issue of the relationship between war and the environment. It is not a broad convention but a rather limited instrument carefully designed for a specific purpose.

We believe environmental questions in warfare should be addressed. Indeed, it is for this reason that the United States is planning to propose a resolution in the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to address specifically the question of what law applies to specific acts of war involving damage to the environment. Environmental Modification is only one part of that regime. A large body of treaty and customary law, including the Hague regulations and the Geneva conventions address the range of concerns associated with this issue. A broad forum such as the Sixth Committee is the appropriate place, we believe, where such concerns should be addressed.

Given the Environmental Modification Convention's special niche in this broader regime, we must remain highly conscious of the criteria that have been established for determining what constitutes a prohibited action under the convention.

Only if all of these criteria are met is an action prohibited by the convention.

My delegation believes that the formulations of Articles I and II strike the proper balance that permits recognition of a true violation of the convention. The tests are designed to avoid prohibitions that would be difficult to verify and would thus erode the value of the treaty by opening the door to frivolous complaints. Overall, it is important to keep in mind that it is not the purpose of the treaty, as the drafters realized, to prohibit damage to the environment resulting from conventional armed conflict, however reprehensible that may be.

Many delegations have raised the question of herbicides and proposed that our final declaration address this issue. The US position has not changed on this question since our interpretation was offered to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament on 26 April 1976, that is, that the convention prohibits the use of herbicides "as an instrument for upsetting the ecological balance of a region" as a means of destruction, damage, or injury if the effects were widespread, long-lasting, or severe. The United States is prepared to restate this uncontested position in full in order to leave the record clear that the United States does not intend to use herbicides in wartime except in defensive modes or as specified in the US 1976 statement. We are also prepared to work with the German delegation and others to reflect our understanding in the final declaration.

Convinced of the value of the Environmental Modification Convention, the United States delegation looks forward to constructive discussion this week. As the week progresses, we will be actively participating in the discussion of the individual articles of the treaty. And while my delegation does not at this point see areas in which the ENMOD Convention needs alteration, we, of course, have been and will be listening attentively to the presentations of other delegations who might believe differently. The task of this conference is, after all, to review. We intend to join in these deliberations in the most constructive manner possible.

As a result of our deliberations, it is my delegation's hope that more attention will be drawn to the Environmental Modification Convention, and that this attention will result in addressing the convention's major current deficiency -- the relatively small number of countries who are party to this convention. In this regard, Mr. President, we believe that there is some room for the conference to provide direction to the depositary for playing a more active role in promoting the treaty. For instance, we would urge the United Nations to be more involved in the exchange of information on Environmental Modification techniques. Meanwhile, as parties we share a responsibility with the depositary to ensure that the ENMOD Convention is accepted by as many states as possible.

For its part, the United States has and will continue to take very seriously its undertaking pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article III regarding the exchange of scientific and technological information. In this regard, the United States will make available a paper on "Weather Modification Programs Of The United States Government" which describes US programs in this area and US involvement with the international community on these issues.

The last year has witnessed many steps -- large and small, momentous and more routine -- in arms control. The path we have taken in these truly historic months reflects the international community's view that arms control remains and important feature of the international security environment, not only for today, but for tomorrow. Every step along that path moves us to a more stable, more livable world. This conference can be another step toward that future.