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China

Chemical

Last Updated: November, 2014

China is a party to the major international agreements regulating chemical weapons. China acceded to the Geneva Protocol in 1952 and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997. [1] While China declared upon ratification of the CWC that it had once operated a small chemical weapons program for offensive purposes, it has consistently maintained that the program has since been dismantled. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has conducted more than 300 inspections in China to confirm Beijing's declarations. [2]


Japanese chemical weapons found in Ha'erbaling, Jilin Province, China Prof. Kei-ichi Tsuneishi, Kanagawa University

Past United States government assessments have accused China of not declaring the full extent of its chemical weapons program, past and present though the most recent CWC compliance report released by the State Department in March 2012 does not list China as a country with any compliance issues. [3] The U.S. government has also expressed concern over the transfer of controlled chemicals from Chinese entities to nations of proliferation concern, most notably Iran. [4]

China was a victim of chemical warfare during World War II, with some estimates indicating roughly 2,000 separate CW attacks by Japan on Chinese territory between 1937 and 1945, causing over 80,000 casualties. [5] The legacy of these attacks continues to represent a major problem for China, which had an estimated 700,000 munitions abandoned chemical munitions, left on its territory by retreating Japanese forces. [6]

History

Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China

At the end of World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army abandoned a large number of chemical weapons on Chinese territory, estimated at approximately 700,000 munitions. [7] Japan is responsible for the proper destruction of these abandoned chemical weapons (ACWs), and both China and Japan were tasked with negotiating the arrangements under the CWC.

After many years of negotiations, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July 1999 that established a basic framework for ACW destruction in China. [8] Under the agreement, Japan is to provide the necessary facilities, experts, expertise, and funds to complete the destruction of the munitions. The clean-up was scheduled to commence in 2000 and, according to CWC guidelines, should have been completed by 2007, ten years after the convention's entry into force. [9] However, the project has experienced cost overruns, allegations of corruption, and slow progress on implementation. [10] China and Japan jointly filed a request with the OPCW for an extension of five years (until 2012), to complete the removal and destruction of the weapons, which the organization granted. [11]

China and Japan agreed that the primary ACW destruction site would be established in Haerbaling area of Dunhua City, Jilin Province, where approximately 670,000 ACW munitions in China are located. [12] In December 2008, a Japanese team under Chinese supervision began test removal of some ACW at Ha'erbaling. [13] Japan and China also agreed on the use of a mobile destruction facility for the disposal of munitions that cannot be safely transported to Ha'erbaling. The first such facility was established at Nanjing, and began destruction of ACWs in September 2010. [14]


Possible mustard gas shell found at Ha'erbaling, Jilin Province, China Prof. Kei-ichi Tsuneishi, Kanagawa University

China's Official Position on Chemical Weapons

As part of its CWC obligations, in 1997 China declared small-scale chemical warfare agent production facilities, which have since been verifiably destroyed. [15] China also declared that it has maintained a defensive chemical warfare program to protect itself against chemical attacks, which is not in contravention of the CWC. The Anti-Chemical Warfare Corps, established in 1950, is tasked with preparing for and defending against nuclear and chemical attacks or accidents through training and scientific development. In peacetime, it is also responsible for securing materials at civilian chemical plants and nuclear reactors. [16]

Additionally, China has two OPCW-designated laboratories: the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry, Research Institute of Chemical Defence, designated in 1998, and the Laboratory of Toxicant Analysis at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, designated in 2007. [17] These laboratories assist the OPCW in analyzing samples taken during on-site inspections.

Beijing's official declarations have consistently shown support for the complete prohibition and destruction of chemical weapons. In a statement to the 15th Conference of the States Parties to the CWC, Ambassador Zhang Jun reiterated that, "the destruction of chemical weapons is the most important, pressing and overriding task for the OPCW at present and in the years to come." [18] In a statement at the Third Review Conference on the CWC, Ambassador Chen Xu noted that, "As the State Party with the largest number of declarable and inspectable Article VI facilities, China has submitted all kinds of declarations on time and received over 300 inspections of different types successfully." [19]

Despite Beijing's official position, and its emphasis that all on-site inspections have demonstrated strict observance of CWC obligations, there have been allegations in the past — primarily from the U.S. government — that the Chinese government may be violating its CWC commitments by secretly pursuing chemical weapons programs. In the State Department Compliance report for 2001, the U.S. concluded that "China maintains an active offensive R&D CW program, a possible undeclared CW stockpile, and CW-related facilities that were not declared." [20] However, in 2005, the compliance report downgraded the earlier assessment when it stated 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." [21]

Similarly, the 2010 compliance report by the U.S. State Department concludes that "available information does not allow the United States to confirm whether China has fully declared or explained its historical CW activities, including CW production, disposition of produced CW agents, and transfer of CW agents to another country." [22] As an example of a possible violation, the report cites information on a spill of a blistering agent, nitrogen mustard 2, a CWC Schedule 1 chemical, at a pharmaceutical factory. [23] Even if this chemical were only produced captively (i.e., existing for only a short time in the process of creating another product), it should have been declared according to CWC regulations.

China's CW-Related Export Controls

China is not currently a member of the Australia Group (AG), a export control forum focused on chemical and biological weapons; however, since 2006 Beijing has held regular consultations with the AG, and China's CW-related export controls are in line with AG control lists. China's chemical industry is large and diffuse, representing a core industry in terms of China's overall economic development. As of its March 2008 report, submitted during the CWC Second Review Conference, "the total numbers of declared and inspectable industrial facilities in China are 1,855 and 1,737 respectively, which account for approximately one third of the total numbers of declared/inspectable facilities of all States Parties." [24]

The magnitude of China's chemical industry, combined with Beijing's developing export control system, has made domestic enforcement of export control laws difficult, resulting in inconsistent implementation. The export of most dual-use chemicals is regulated by the Ministry of Commerce, in coordination with other ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [25] For CWC scheduled chemicals, export licensing is handled by the National CWC Implementation Office, which is under the State Council's National Reform and Development Commission.

Although Beijing has improved its export control system, it remains difficult to fully assess China's ability to enforce its controls in the chemical field since Chinese authorities have been hesitant to discuss cases of export violations. The limited number of cases that Chinese authorities have made public show that Beijing still has problems with the activities of small and medium-sized enterprises, and with the domestic gathering of useful intelligence on possible violations. [26]

Since the 1990s, the United States has repeatedly accused a number of Chinese firms of exporting dual-use chemical weapons precursors and production equipment to Iran. [27] In response, the United States imposed a series of sanctions on various suspected Chinese entities in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005. [28] Examples of chemical weapons-related export control violations released by China's Ministry of Commerce included interdictions of dual-use chemicals such as sodium cyanide and potassium bifluoride, and glass-lined equipment being exported by private Chinese companies to destinations in Iran and North Korea. [29]

Recent Developments and Current Status

Excavations of abandoned chemical weapons in China continue; as of April 2011, China and Japan had "conducted more than 180 bilateral investigations and excavation operations with more than 50,000 ACW recovered." [30] However, progress on destroying these munitions remains slow. The mobile destruction facility finally began destroying abandoned chemical weapons in China in October 2010. [31] China continues to focus attention on this issue and expresses displeasure at the remaining potential health hazard posed by ACWs:

"Chemical weapons abandoned by Japan in China have posed a grave threat and caused real harm to people in the affected areas in China in terms of safety of their life, property and environment... the rate of progress in the overall process of destruction still falls far behind schedule." [32]

Japan admitted it could not meet the official deadline of 29 April 2012, however, it committed to continuing to work with Chinese authorities to complete the dismantlement by the end of 2016. [33] In December 2014, China and Japan began to destroy the chemical weapons abandoned by Japan in Harbaling, Jilin Province. In November 2015, China’s representative to the OPCW criticized the slow pace of ACW destruction and urged Japan to expedite the process to avoid falling further behind schedule. [34]

China's 2010 national defense white paper expresses the country's commitment to implementing the CWC and emphasizes its cooperation with the OPCW, including "hosting several training courses for OPCW inspectors, as well as international courses on protection and assistance." [35] Such events have included a meeting in Xi'an in 2011, and a training course in Beijing in May 2012. [36] In May 2014, the Chinese government and the OPCW jointly hosted the 3rd Advanced Assistance and Protection Course at the Institute of Chemical Defense in Beijing. [37] In May 2015, China and the OPCW jointly hosted a Regional Meeting on Education and Outreach for States Parties in Asia in Beijing. During the discussion with the Deputy Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Grace Asirwatham, the Chinese Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Liu Jianchao expressed China’s willingness to work with OPCW in the establishment of a regional education and outreach center. [38]

However, while "the United States assesses that China has made an accurate declaration in relation to its historical CW program, including CW agent production and disposition," according to the U.S. State Department's 2011 Condition (10) (C) Report, there remain serious doubts about China's abilities to reign in chemical transfers to outside countries. [39] There appear to be a mix of reasons for these fears, most notably a lack of necessary expertise and resources to enforce export controls on the rapidly expanding chemical sector. Local officials may also be unwilling to enforce controls on powerful state-owned enterprises, and those cases that are acted upon are unlikely to be published for fear of political ramifications. [40]

Sources:
[1] Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction," www.opcw.org.
[2] Chen, Xu, "General Debate Statement by Ambassador Chen Xu, Head of the Chinese Delegation to the Third Review Conference on the Chemical Weapons Convention," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 8 April 2013, www.opcw.org.
[3] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," March 2012, www.state.gov.
[4] Shirley A. Kan, "China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues, RL31555," Congressional Research Service, 11 March 2013.
[5] Claudine McCarthy, "Japan and WMD," in Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Encyclopedia of Worldwide Policy, Technology, and History, eds. Eric A. Croddy, James J. Wirtz, and Jeffrey A. Larsen (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005), pp.169-170.
[6] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Budget for the Destruction of Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China,” 24 December 1999, www.mofa.go.jp; Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Japan's Efforts Toward Early Destruction of ACW in China," Report RC-2/NAT.20 at the Second Review Conference, 16 April 2008, www.opcw.org.
[7] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Budget for the Destruction of Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China,” 24 December 1999, www.mofa.go.jp.
[8] "Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Japan and China on the Destruction of Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China," 30 July 1999.
[9] See: Verification Annex, Part IV(A) and IV(B), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction," www.opcw.org.
[10] "Chemical Arms Leave Toxic Legacy; Disposing of Weapons Abandoned in China Has Created New Problems," The Daily Yomiuri, 29 April 2008, www.lexis-nexis.com.
[11] Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Report of the Executive Council on the Performance of its Activities in the Period from 2 July 2005 to 7 July 2006," EC-47/3, C-11/2, 8 November 2006, www.opcw.org.
[12] "Joint Team Ends Chemical Weapons Excavation," China Daily, 11 July 2006, www.chinadaily.com.cn.
[13] "Japan Begins Trying to Remove Chemical Weapons Abandoned in China During WWII," Xinhua, 13 December 2008, www.xinhuanet.com.
[14] Zhang Xiang, "Japan starts destroying chemical weapons abandoned in China during WWII," Xinhua, 1 September, 2010, www.xinhuanet.com.
[15] Eric Croddy, Chemical and Biological Warfare: A Comprehensive Survey for the Concerned Citizen (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2002) pp. 54-56.
[16] Wu Zhi and Huang Shubo, "近距离接触中国防化兵:一支防御性质的部队" [Close Quarters with China's Antichemical Warfare Corps: a Defensive Unit], Xinhua, 28 July 2007, news.xinhuanet.com; and "Army Paper on Reform of Anti-Chemical Warfare Training," PLA Daily, 13 December 2000, www.lexisnexis.com.
[17] Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Report of the OPCW on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction in 2009," Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the State Parties, 30 November 2010, www.opcw.org.
[18] Permanent Mission to the OPCW, "Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Jun, Head of the Chinese Delegation at the Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, 30 November 2010, www.fmprc.gov.cn.
[19] Chen, Xu, "General Debate Statement by Ambassador Chen Xu, Head of the Chinese Delegation to the Third Review Conference on the Chemical Weapons Convention," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 8 April 2013, www.opcw.org.
[20] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," June 2003, www.state.gov.
[21] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," August 2005, www.state.gov.
[22] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," July 2010, www.state.gov.
[23] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," July 2010, www.state.gov.
[24] The People's Republic of China, "Report on the Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in China," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Conference of the States Parties, Second Review Conference, 25 March 2008, www.opcw.org.
[25] Information Office, State Council of the People's Republic of China, "China's Endeavors for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation," 1 September 2005, www.china.org.cn.
[26] Stephanie Lieggi, "From Proliferator to Model Citizen? China's Recent Enforcement of Nonproliferation-Related Trade Controls and Its Potential Positive Impact in the Region," Strategic Studies Quarterly, Summer 2010, www.au.af.mil
[27] Shirley A. Kan, "China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues," Congressional Research Service, 11 March 2013.
[28] Shirley A. Kan, "China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues," Congressional Research Service, 26 May 2009.
[29] Stephanie Lieggi, "From Proliferator to Model Citizen? China's Recent Enforcement of Nonproliferation-Related Trade Controls and Its Potential Positive Impact in the Region," Strategic Studies Quarterly, Summer 2010, www.au.af.mil.
[30] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, "The Issue of Chemical Weapons Abandoned by Japan in China," 7 April 2011, www.mfa.gov.cn.
[31] Zhang Xiang, "Japan starts destroying chemical weapons abandoned in China during WWII," Xinhua, 1 September 2010, www.xinhuanet.com.
[32] Permanent Mission to the OPCW, "Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the Organization For the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons At the 63rd Session of the Executive Council," Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 18 February 2011, www.chinaembassy.nl.
[33] The People's Republic of China, "中日就今后销毁日遗化武工作达成共识并作出安排" [China and Japan Reach Consensus and Make Arrangements for the Future Destruction of Abandoned Chemical Weapons] 16 February 2012, www.gov.cn; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, "日本国政府及び中華人民共和国政府による中国における日本の遺棄化学兵器の2012年4月29日の後の廃棄に関する覚書" [MOU Between the Governments of Japan and the People's Republic of China on the Dismantlement of Japan's Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China after the Initial Deadline, 29 April 29 2012] 12 April 2013, www.mofa.go.jp.
[34] Shen Qing, “Japanese Chemical Weapons Abandoned in China to be Destroyed,” Xinhua News, 30 November 2014, www.xinhuanet.com; “Statement by Ambassador Chen Xu, Head of the Chinese Delegation, at the General Debate of the Twentieth Session of the Conference of State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 30 November 2015, nl.china-embassy.org.
[35] Information Office, State Council of the People's Republic of China, "China's National Defense in 2010," Editor Wang Guanqun, March 2011, www.xinhuanet.com.
[36] Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “Regional Workshop on Assistance and Protection Against Chemical Weapons Held in China,” 28 June 2011, www.opcw.org; Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “Advanced Assistance-and-Protection Course Held in China,” 24 May 2012, www.opcw.org.
[37] Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “Third Advanced Assistance and Protection Course Held in China,” 26-30 May 2014, www.opcw.org.
[38] Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “Regional Meeting in Beijing on Education and Outreach for States Parties in Asia,” 8 May 2015, www.opcw.org.
[39] China has not been mentioned in subsequent reports. U.S. Department of State, "Condition (10) (C) Report: Compliance with The Convention on The Prohibition of The Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction," August 2011, www.state.gov.
[40] Stephanie Lieggi, "From Proliferator to Model Citizen? China's Recent Enforcement of Nonproliferation-Related Trade Controls and Its Potential Positive Impact in the Region," Strategic Studies Quarterly, Summer 2010, www.au.af.mil.

Get the Facts on China
  • Actively modernizing the delivery systems of its nuclear triad
  • Not a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, the MTCR or the Australia Group
  • Approximately 700,000 Japanese chemical weapons munitions abandoned on Chinese territory after WWII

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