US completes destruction of chemical weapons stockpile News
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US completes destruction of chemical weapons stockpile

The US has completed the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile, according to an announcement made Friday by US President Joe Biden. The president said the end of the thirty-year process has brought “us one step closer to a world free from the horrors of chemical weapons.”

The destruction of chemical weapons is governed by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The CWC defines a chemical weapon as “[m]unitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties.” Famous examples include chlorine and mustard gases used during World War I.

Ratified by the US in 1997, the arms control treaty mandates party states never “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone.” Furthermore, the treaty requires parties to destroy existing stockpiles and all chemical weapons facilities.

After the destruction of the US stockpile, 99 percent of the world’s known chemical weapons have been destroyed. However, there are staunch holdouts to the CWC. Israel has signed but not yet ratified the treaty, maintaining that its decision to not ratify the CWC is based on security concerns. Its northern neighbor, Syria, was accused of using chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war. Additionally, Egypt, on Israel’s southern border, is not party to the treaty.

With chemical weapons nearly eradicated, attention is now shifting to focus on the elimination of cluster bombs. The US recently announced a military aid package to Ukraine that includes cluster bombs in the form of dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs). 

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the weapons function by “randomly scattering submunitions or bomblets over a wide area.” However, many of the “submunitions” fail to detonate, leaving them as “de facto landmines.” Neither the US, Ukraine nor Russia are party to the arms treaty banning the use of cluster bombs: the Convention on Cluster Munitions.