Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention compliance report issued

The U.S. State Department recently issued a compliance report that details the adherence to the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention of various signatory nations.

The report is part of unclassified version of a larger document that examines the adherence to broader arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament treaties.

There are no verification requirements outlined in the BWC, such as information exchanges. Transparency measures about dual use and high containment research are in the BWC, but their usefulness has been called into question by experts as they are entirely voluntary, the Federation of American Scientists reports.

Egypt, India, Iraq, Libya and Pakistan were deemed by the report to be in full compliance with the BWC. India and Pakistan were credited with tightening their export controls on biological agents, and Iraq was credited with setting up a National Monitoring Directorate that focuses on BWC compliance and confidence building.

China, Iran, Cuba and Russia were not found to be explicitly in violation of the convention, but there is uncertainty as to what degree they are following their pledges.

China has yet to release information about its biological weapons programs from before signing the convention, so it is unclear how far it has gone towards elimination. A 2005 compliance report said China still had an offensive capability.

Iran and Russia are, among other questions, engaging in dual-use activities, but it is unclear as to what extent, and though this is not prohibited in the BWC, it causes the State Department concern. Russia also has not accounted for all of its Soviet-era munitions and inherited programs.

Syria and North Korea are considered to not be compliance.

North Korea has not been open to any voluntary confidence building measures and may consider biological weapons a military option since it has continued to acquire, according to the document, “specialized equipment, materials and expertise, some of which could support biological weapons development.”

Syria is a signatory to the BWC but has yet to ratify it, which means that it is not bound by its requirements. The compliance report explicitly states that if Syria  were to ratify the treaty it would be in violation. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated in 2004 that such weapons were useful deterrents.