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Freeing the world of chemical weapons

All parties to the CWC should fulfill their obligations so as to help build a global community with shared security


April 29 marks the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC, hereinafter referred to as "the Convention") and the establishment of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Convention is a milestone in international disarmament. It is the first international legal instrument for the comprehensive prohibition and thorough destruction of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction with a strict verification mechanism. From the 1675 Strasbourg Agreement to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and to the entry into force of the Convention in 1997, the consistent pursuit of peace and security across more than three centuries has borne mankind's vision for a world free of chemical weapons.

China was one of the first signatories to the Convention. Over the past 25 years, China has been faithfully upholding the purpose and objective of the Convention. China fully honors its obligations under the Convention, has established an effective national compliance system and keeps updating the legislation for implementation. As the State Party with the largest number of declared and inspected facilities, China always submits its declaration in a timely and accurate manner, and receives verifications and inspections efficiently and strictly. As of today, China has successfully received 593 industrial inspections. China is now the second-largest contributor to the OPCW and provides crucial financial support for its operation. Both of the two OPCW designated laboratories in China have achieved excellent results over the previous annual proficiency tests.

Over the past 25 years, China has been firmly safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests. The handling of Japanese Abandoned Chemical Weapons on the territory of China concerns reckoning the history of Japanese militarist invasion of China, the safety of the Chinese people and its ecology and social stability, and international fairness and justice. During the negotiations on the Convention, China insisted on the inclusion in the Convention that "each State Party undertakes to destroy all chemical weapons it abandoned on the territory of another State Party", and made important contributions to the successful conclusion of the Convention. It is with China's push and support that the OPCW Policy-Making Organs review the issue of JACWs on a regular basis and request Japan's fulfillment of its obligations under the Convention. As of January this year, a total of about 60,000 JACWs had been destroyed, which contributes to safeguarding the safety of local people, property and environment in China.

Over the past 25 years, China has been unswervingly maintaining international fairness and justice. China firmly opposes the use of chemical weapons by any country, organization or individual under any circumstances and for any purpose. China supports the OPCW to stick to the principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence, and to investigate alleged uses of chemical weapons in strict accordance with the provisions of the Convention. In 2014, China participated in the international operation to jointly escort the shipping of chemical weapons from Syria and contributed to the elimination of the chemical weapons and the defusing of the regional crisis.

Over the past 25 years, China has been vigorously advancing international cooperation in the chemical field. China, committed to promoting international cooperation under the Convention framework, has made important contributions to the OPCW including financial ones. China supports the construction and operation of the future OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology, and earnestly provides assistance to States Parties, especially the developing countries, to enhance their capacity building. Last year, China tabled at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly the resolution entitled "Promoting International Cooperation on Peaceful Uses in the Context of International Security".It aims to foster peaceful uses and benefit sharing of the science, technology and resources in chemical and other related fields, which has garnered widespread support among developing countries.

After 25 years of development, the number of States Parties to the Convention has reached 193, and 99 percent of the world's declared chemical weapons have been destroyed. The Convention and the OPCW have contributed significantly to world peace and security. However, given the changes in the international situation, the OPCW and the authority and effectiveness of the Convention are confronted with severe and complex challenges. Certain countries prefer confrontation over dialogue and cooperation because of their Cold War mentality and attempt to make the OPCW a political instrument. The deadline for the destruction of the US' stockpiles of chemical weapons has been extended several times. The JACW destruction process has been prolonged for years. Incidents of alleged use of chemical weapons have also been reported from time to time. International cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry is yet to be strengthened with concrete actions. All these challenges undermine the achievement of the purpose and objective of the Convention and its full implementation requires further actions.

Recently, President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative at the Opening Ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022 and highlighted that "it is important that we stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and work together to maintain world peace and security; reject the Cold War mentality, oppose unilateralism, and say no to group politics and bloc confrontation; stay committed to peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, support all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of crises."

Faced with such situation and challenges, those principles also apply to the Convention and the OPCW, which are indispensable parts of global security governance. China stands ready to work with the OPCW and other States Parties to promote the international chemical weapons disarmament and non-proliferation process. Its position can be further elaborated as follows:

First, the authority of the Convention should be jointly safeguarded. The Convention forms an essential part of international arms control regime. States Parties should live up to their commitments, fulfill their due obligations in good faith, strive to practice multilateralism and defend the authority of the Convention. We should stand firm against unilateralism and hegemonism, and bridge differences through dialogue. The Technical Secretariat of the OPCW should uphold the principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence, and fulfill its mandate under the Convention.

Second, the process of chemical weapons destruction should be continued. The complete and thorough destruction of chemical weapons is the core objective of the Convention. As the sole possessor State of chemical weapons stockpiles, the United States should speed up its complete destruction. Japan should make all possible efforts to accelerate the JACW destruction in a pragmatic and responsible manner, so that a world free of chemical weapons can become a reality sooner.

Third, international cooperation should be strengthened. International cooperation is a cornerstone of the Convention and is also the direction of the transition of the OPCW. China stands for more inputs into the prioritized areas of the developing countries and the expansion of the "toolkit" for international cooperation, so as to enhance States Parties' compliance capability. Meanwhile, we should pursue both security and development by finding a balance between non-proliferation and peaceful uses, in a bid to ensure States Parties' full entitlement of the right of peaceful uses.

The Fifth Review Conference of the Convention will be held next year. China is ready to work with all parties to practice true multilateralism and uphold the global governance principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China will continue to advocate the common values of humanity, strive to build a community with shared security and concertedly work for a world free of chemical weapons.

The author is Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn