China is a party to most of the major international agreements regulating chemical weapons, including the Geneva Protocol and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). China also supported the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 in 2004, which compels states to prevent non-state actors from acquiring chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). China is not, however, a member of the Australia Group (AG), a voluntary supply-side export control regime focusing on chemical and biological weapons (CBW), though the issuance of new CW-specific export controls in 2002 has put Beijing's export control policy fully in line with that of the AG. In recent years, China has begun informal discussions with the AG.
While China declared upon ratification of the CWC in 1997 that it once operated a small chemical weapons program for offensive purposes, it has consistently maintained that the program has since been dismantled. Even though the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has conducted over 100 inspections in China to confirm Beijing's declarations, the United States has stated on numerous occasions that China has not declared the full extent of its chemical weapons program. Additionally, the United States has expressed concern over the transfer of controlled chemicals from Chinese entities to nations of proliferation concern, most notably Iran.
China's Official Position on Chemical Weapons
Officially, China supports the complete prohibition and destruction of chemical weapons. In November 1995, Beijing's White Paper on Arms Control and Disarmament stated that China supports, as the ultimate goal of disarmament, "the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (including chemical and biological weapons)." The document also stated that China "has consistently advocated the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of chemical weapons," and that "it does not produce or possess chemical weapons."
In 1998, China further clarified its positions and reiterated its previous positions concerning chemical weapons in its white paper entitled China's National Defense. This document states:
"China signed the CWC in January 1993, ratified the convention in December 1996 and deposited instruments of ratification on April 25, 1997, thus becoming an original signatory state to the CWC...China holds that the convention should promote international economic, trade, scientific and technological exchanges in the field of chemical industry, ensuring that chemical industry technology truly benefits mankind..."
In a 2000 white paper, China's National Defense reiterated the policies of the earlier white papers, and added:
"It is the view of the Chinese government that the implementation of the CWC has been, on the whole, satisfactory, since it entered into force three years ago. However, there are problems which should not be ignored: The universality of the Convention leaves a lot to be desired; a certain State Party has made de facto reservations regarding the provisions of the Convention in the form of domestic legislation; and some State Parties have been very slow in destroying their chemical weapons stockpiles. These problems should be put right as soon as possible."
In the 2005 white paper, "China's Endeavors for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation," China emphasized the problem of the continued presence of abandoned Japanese chemical weapons in China:
"China suffered a lot from the use of biological and chemical weapons by foreign countries in history. The chemical weapons abandoned by Japan on Chinese soil are still posing a grave and real threat to the lives and property of the Chinese people, and to the ecological environment."
As part of its CWC obligations, in 1997 China reportedly declared small-scale chemical agent production facilities, which have since been destroyed. These declarations have been verified by on-site inspections carried out by the OPCW. China has also declared that it has maintained a defensive chemical warfare program to protect itself against chemical attack, which is not in conflict with the CWC. In 1950, China established an anti-chemical warfare school, and in 1956, established the Anti-Chemical Warfare Department with the approval of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Currently, China conducts research on chemical weapons defense at its Research Institute of Chemical Defense and has two schools for its anti-chemical warfare corps. It is not known publicly whether China declared a chemical weapons stockpile. According to the Chinese white paper "China's National Defense in 2006," since the CWC entered into force, China has had over 100 on-site inspections by OPCW personnel to verify submitted declarations.
China and Other Nonproliferation Agreements
In its public statements, China has consistently expressed support for the principles of nonproliferation of chemical weapons and other WMD. However, China has not embraced every proposal aimed at countering WMD proliferation. For example, China has declined participation in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a voluntary system of counterproliferation partnerships between states designed to disrupt all modes of WMD trafficking, which was made public in May 2003. The PSI facilitates the interdiction of suspected WMD shipments by enhancing law enforcement cooperation and intelligence sharing between states, and provides the basis for allowing the interception and search of suspect maritime vessels flying PSI member flags in international waters. While voicing support for the goals of the PSI, China has also expressed fears that it is discriminatory and potentially illegal. In late 2003, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman stated:
"China understands the concerns of the member nations of the PSI over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction...But internationally, the legality of some of the PSI measures have some negative aspects that could result in bad consequences..."
In April 2004, the UN Security Council (UNSC), of which China is a permanent member, unanimously adopted UNSC Resolution 1540, which seeks to prevent non-state actors from acquiring chemical weapons and other CBRN weapons. UNSC 1540 requires all UN member states to not assist, and adopt domestic laws designed to prevent, non-state actors from developing, acquiring, producing, transporting, or using WMD and their means of delivery. The resolution also calls for states to develop effective accounting measures to quantify and track sensitive materials, maintain adequate physical protection and border security, and establish export controls governing the export and trans-shipment of sensitive items. While China voted in favor of the resolution, according to a 2005 article appearing in the journal "Disarmament Diplomacy" it was the last of the permanent UNSC members to agree to the draft resolution language, after specific reference to interdiction was removed.
The U.S. Response
Despite China's official position, there have been allegations that the Chinese government is still secretly pursuing chemical weapons programs, in violation of its CWC commitments. These allegations have originated primarily in the United States, though they have not yet led to any official action against China. (Under the provisions of the CWC, allegations of active CW programs can be brought before the OPCW and a challenge inspection can be called.)
In its January 2001 report entitled Proliferation: Threat and Response, the U.S. Department of Defense stated:
"Beijing is believed to have an advanced chemical warfare program including research and development, production, and weaponization capabilities. China's chemical industry has the capability to produce many chemicals, some of which have been sought by states trying to develop a chemical warfare capability. Foreign sales of such chemicals have been a source of foreign exchange for China. The Chinese government has imposed restrictions on the sale of some chemical precursors and its enforcement activities generally have yielded mixed results.
"While China claims it possesses no chemical agent inventory, it is believed to possess a moderate inventory of traditional agents...Chinese military forces most likely have a good understanding of chemical warfare doctrine, and its forces routinely conduct defensive chemical warfare training. Even though China has ratified the CWC, made its declaration, and subjected its declared chemical weapons facilities to inspections, we believe that Beijing has not acknowledged the full extent of its chemical weapons program."
In July 2003, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter stated in testimony before the U.S.-China Commission:
"China's maintenance of a chemical weapons program is a matter of serious concern to us. We are no less concerned about certain Chinese entities' continued transfers overseas of dual-use chemical agents and technologies and equipment that can be used in chemical weapons programs. The United States believes that, despite being a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), China has an advanced chemical weapons research and development program. Although China has declared that it does not possess chemical weapons, we believe that Beijing has not acknowledged the full extent of its CW program. We also believe that China possesses an inventory of traditional CW agents. Moreover, a number of China's chemical industrial facilities are highly capable - giving it the ability to produce many dual-use chemicals...The U.S. remains concerned, however, about the role of Chinese entities providing CW-related equipment, technology, and precursor materials to Iran. The U.S. continues diplomatic efforts to encourage China to prevent exports to CW-related end-users, particularly in Iran."
In more recent years, the U.S. continues to express concern regarding China's CW program, although the U.S. is less certain of the current status of the program. In August 2005, a report issued by the U.S. Department of State entitled "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments" stated:
"The United States judges that China maintains a CW production mobilization capability, although there is insufficient information available to determine whether it maintains an active offensive CW research and development program. Moreover, in violation of its CWC obligations, China has not acknowledged past transfers of chemical weapons and it may not have declared the full extent of its CW-related facilities."
In September 2006, Assistant Secretary of State DeSutter again testified before Congress regarding Chinese WMD proliferation. While acknowledging recent Chinese efforts to strengthen nonproliferation regimes, DeSutter expressed dissatisfaction with China's ability to control exports of sensitive materials and chemicals to countries of concern, including Iran and North Korea:
"...we remain disappointed in the continuing proliferant behavior of certain Chinese entities, and we remain deeply concerned about the Chinese government's commitment towards its nonproliferation obligations. Quite simply, we believe that the Chinese government should do more to consistently enforce its nonproliferation regulations."
In discussing a putative Chinese CW program, DeSutter stated:
"We maintain reservations about China's current research activities and dual-use capabilities, which raise the possibility that BW and CW work could be underway. For example, because of the possible offensive capabilities of aerosolization techniques, the United States' concerns are underscored by publications indicating military involvement in such research...the United States believes that China maintains a CW production mobilization capability, although we simply do not have enough information to determine whether China maintains an active offensive CW research and development program."
The U.S. has not publicly disclosed specific evidence to support its contentions regarding the Chinese CW program.
China's CW Export Controls
China's chemical industry is large and diffuse, and seen as one of the core industries involved in China's overall economic development. This, combined with the fact that export control laws have only come into force in the last few years, has made domestic enforcement of these laws difficult, resulting in inconsistent implementation.
The Chinese government has consistently insisted that it has never violated the CWC, and points out that that the convention explicitly allows for normal trade and cooperation between State Parties (of which Iran is one) in the chemical industrial field.
China's current chemical export controls consist of five main components:
* December 1995 Regulations on Controlled Chemicals (based on the regulations contained in the Chemical Weapons Convention);
* March 1997 Supplement to the December 1995 chemical export control regulations, issued in preparation for China's April 1997 ratification of the CWC;
* August 1997 Ministerial Circular on strengthened chemical export controls;
* June 1998 Decree expanding the scope of its chemical controls to cover dual-use chemicals not previously controlled by China's existing laws but which are covered in the guidelines of the Australia Group, of which China is not a member; and
* October 2002 regulations, with corresponding control lists, on chemical and biological agent related exports, which includes extensive licensing and registration procedures for CBW-related materials, equipment and technologies. With the 2002 regulations, China's export controls now fully cover requirements under the CWC, as well as the control lists of the Australia Group.
Negotiations between China and the AG are ongoing, with a round of meetings between an AG delegation and representatives of several Chinese government ministries held in June 2006. The October 2002 regulations, formally known as the Measures on Export Control of Certain Chemicals and Related Equipment and Technologies and Certain Chemicals and Related Equipment and Technologies Export Control List, have the stated intention of further strengthening control over the export of dual-use chemicals and their related equipment and technologies. Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) spokeswoman Gao Yan stated:
"As an important component of China's export control legal system, the measures are significant to implementing the country's nonproliferation policy, to fulfilling its international obligations, to safeguarding its national security as well as social and public interests, to standardizing its export control of sensitive items, and to maintaining the normal order of foreign trade."
The 2005 white paper on arms control and nonproliferation offered a relatively detailed description of China's export control system. For chemical weapons-related export controls, the export of "certain chemicals" is regulated by the Ministry of Commerce in coordination with the State Development and Reform Commission. The white paper provided an overview of efforts on the part of the Chinese government to further strengthen its export control system and harmonize it with international standards. Among the specific measures cited were: the formulation of measures for export license administration in 2003, a computerized interagency control system, and an interagency contingency mechanism for emergency cases. With respect to the enforcement of export control laws, China claimed to have "dealt with scores of cases...concerning illegal export of sensitive items and technologies" since the implementation of the 2002 regulations. The white paper also highlighted Chinese efforts to train law enforcement officials and private enterprises in Chinese export control policy. As a significant final note, China appeared to acknowledge that its export control system remains a work in progress:
"The nonproliferation export control [sic] is a long-term task. The Chinese government will keep on improving its legislation in this regard, enhancing the capacity-building of law enforcement, setting up and optimizing internal mechanisms, and reinforcing publicity of legislation as well as education and training for enterprises, in a bid to make due contributions to the international nonproliferation endeavor."
China's CW Exports
Since the early 1990's, China was repeatedly accused, primarily by the United States, of exporting dual-use chemical weapons-related materials and technology, such as dual-use chemical precursors, vaccines and production equipment, to countries of concern in the developing world, including Iran, Libya, and Iraq. Chinese chemical and biological weapon-related exports to Iran raised particular concerns.
One of the earliest and most controversial incidents involved the 1993 search of the Chinese ship Yinhe (Galaxy). The search came as a result of U.S. intelligence reports, which charged that the ship was carrying chemical precursors to Iran. The search of the ship, however, revealed no such items. Following the Yinhe incident, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 4 September 1993 that said:
"As a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, China is very serious about its international obligations thereunder. Despite the fact that the Convention has yet to take effect, China has committed itself publicly not to produce or possess chemical weapons, nor does it export chemical products that may be used for the purpose of making chemical weapons. In order to ensure that the chemicals it exports will not be used for chemical weapons, the Chinese Government has formulated extremely stringent measures to control its chemical export. As to the two chemicals referred to by the U.S. side, the Chinese Government has clear-cut orders against their export to certain regions. The Chinese Government will, as always, strictly observe its international obligations and make its contribution to safeguarding international peace and security and promoting normal economic and trade exchanges among countries."
In 1997 and 2001, the United States imposed sanctions on Chinese entities for exporting dual-use chemical precursors and chemical production equipment to Iran in support of Tehran's suspected chemical weapons program. On January 16, 2002, sanctions were again imposed on three Chinese companies by the United States under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000--U.S. legislation that prohibits the sale of chemical and biological weapons components and missile technology to Iran, designed to stop Tehran acquiring weapons of mass destruction. According to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, restrictions were placed on Liyang Chemical Equipment company, the China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company, and an individual broker and agent named as Q.C. Chen "for the transfer to Iran of equipment and technology that's used for the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons; equipment that's controlled under what's called the Australia Group."
In response to the sanctions, China reiterated its opposition to chemical weapon development, stating "China is opposed to any country developing chemical weapons, and furthermore does not help any country develop chemical weapons." Furthermore, "the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Chinese companies using so-called domestic laws and country-specific policy is unreasonable and should be cancelled."
Since 2002, numerous Chinese entities have been sanctioned by the United States for illicit transfers of controlled goods to third parties, often Iran. While the nature of the goods is frequently undisclosed, many of the entities--such as Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import and Export Corporation, Q.C. Chen, Liyang Yunlong Chemical Equipment Group Company, and Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant--engage primarily in the trade of chemicals, prompting speculation that many of the sanctions were for violations of the parameters of the AG or the CWC. This is supported by Assistant Secretary of State DeSutter's 2006 Congressional testimony, where she stated:
"China has adopted export controls mirroring the Australia Group (AG) control list and on chemicals listed on the CWC Schedules...Nonetheless, we continue to have concerns that Chinese entities are transferring AG-controlled items and technology to countries of concern."
Further, a June 2007 media report suggested that U.S. officials were particularly concerned about the activities of the Chinese national Q.C. Chen, whom one unnamed official described as "a serial proliferator of chemical weapons capabilities" and "the A.Q. Khan of chemical weapons." [A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, oversaw a clandestine smuggling ring which sold nuclear equipment and technology to several countries beginning in the 1980s and lasting until his public confession in 2004.] Despite having no economic impact, the U.S. has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Chen, apparently in an effort to call attention to his activities.
In recent years, China has vigorously protested both U.S. assertions that it engages in or fails to stop WMD proliferation, as well as the recent sanctions imposed by the U.S. on its companies. The Chinese response to DeSutter's 2006 testimony was particularly strong, characterizing her comments as "completely without basis and are irresponsible." In January 2007, in response to sanctions imposed on three Chinese companies under the 2005 Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act, including the Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated Chinese opposition to the Bush Administration's frequent implementation of sanctions:
"It is unreasonable for the American government to invoke its domestic law to sanction Chinese companies without providing any evidence...We express resolute opposition and strongly urge the U.S. to correct its wrong practice."
Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China
At the end of World War II, the Japanese army abandoned a large amount of chemical weapons on Chinese territory. China estimates the number of shells to be disposed of at 2 million, while Japan estimates the number to be about 700,000. Under the CWC, Japan is responsible for the proper destruction of these abandoned munitions, and both China and Japan were tasked with negotiating the arrangements for destruction. After many years of negotiation, the two governments in July 1999 signed a Memorandum of Understanding that established a "basic framework of the destruction of abandoned chemical weapons in China, based on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)." Under the agreement, Japan is to provide the necessary facilities, experts, expertise, and funds to complete the destruction of the munitions. The clean-up commenced in 2000 and according to CWC guidelines, should be completed by 2007, 10 years after the convention's entry into force. Due to the immense scale of the operation, Japan has repeatedly stated that this deadline is unrealistic and has expressed interest in a five-year extension, which, according to the OPCW, would require China's consent. In April 2006, China and Japan jointly filed a request with the OPCW for five more years to complete the removal and destruction of the weapons.
Japan estimates that clean-up costs will be around $1.6 billion dollars (200 billion yen). However, this figure is based on the Japanese estimate of 700,000 abandoned shells and not the Chinese estimate of 2 million abandoned shells. In February 2000, over 17,600 chemical weapons of Japanese origin were discovered in Nanjing. Japan sent investigators to China in an attempt to find a way to destroy the weapons. In September 2000, in Bei'an China, scientists and workmen from both Japan and China conducted the "first large scale joint operation" for the excavation and recovery of abandoned chemical weapons (ACWs). Cooperative efforts have also included joint site investigations, studies on weapon destruction, as well as research on security systems protecting both humans and the environment. In addition to major strides in cooperation, the beginning of 2001 ushered in the introduction of management consultants engaged in experimentation and evaluation of weapon destruction devices. Furthermore, plans are currently underway for a program of weapon removal at Haerbaling, where the majority of buried ACWs are located. The eradication of these stockpiles will mark a significant step in eliminating ACWs on Chinese soil.
However, the elimination of ACWs has not progressed fast enough for the Chinese side. In its 2002 white paper, China's National Defense, China expressed its dissatisfaction with the pace of Japanese efforts to recover and destroy ACWs:
"Today, large quantities of chemical weapons abandoned by the Japanese invaders still remain on Chinese soil. China urges Japan to earnestly implement the obligations under the CWC for the destruction of these weapons, and expedite the pace of the relevant work in accordance with the Memorandum on the Destruction of Japanese Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China between the governments of China and Japan, so as to commence as soon as possible the substantive part of the destruction process."
As noted above, China reiterated this general sentiment in its 2005 white paper on arms control and nonproliferation. The sluggish pace of ACW removal continues to generate frustration on the Chinese side. In September 2007 at the 50th session of the OPCW Executive Council, China's permanent representative to the OPCW noted that Japan had not yet disposed of "a single" ACW. ACWs continue to be unearthed in China with some frequency, and Chinese citizens have sued repeatedly in Japanese courts for compensation for the injuries and associated damages caused by Japanese ACWs, despite several rulings in favor of the Japanese government. In July 2007, for example, the Tokyo High Court overturned a September 2003 lower court ruling which had awarded a $1.6 million settlement to 13 Chinese victims of Japanese ACW exposure and their families. Finally, the cleanup effort has been slowed by allegations of corruption on the part of Japanese companies involved in ACW removal. In October 2007, Japanese investigators raided the offices of two companies, Abandoned Chemical Weapons Disposal Corporation and Pacific Consultants International, who were accused of illegally diverting funds intended for ACW cleanup.
Despite these misgivings, joint China-Japan efforts to locate and recover ACWs continue. In December 2006, China and Japan agreed to create a joint body, centered in China's Jilin province, to recover and dispose of Japanese ACWs. China's 2006 national defense white paper states:
"Since 2005, China has assisted Japan in 24 on-site verifications, and recovered over 3,100 chemical weapons abandoned by Japan...These chemical weapons will be destroyed by Japan in the future."