The Question of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Asia
A weapon of mass destruction is one that is capable of causing huge damage and loss of life through non-conventional means. The UN recognizes biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons as Weapons of Mass Destruction(WMDs).
For this report we will consider Asia as a wider continent using the division created by the United Nations Statistics Division (Figure 1), however it is worth noting that the UNRCPD (United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific) has a separate jurisdiction (Figure 2).
Treaties and Resolutions
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968(NPT)
The NPT is enforced by the IAEA, and is divided into three parts; non-proliferation, disarmament, and positive nuclear energy use. It also establishes the five nuclear nations; of which China is one. Of the five nations that are currently not part of this treaty, four are in Asia; Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea. India, Pakistan, and North Korea freely acknowledge their nuclear weapons stockpiles, and Israel’s stockpile is widely accepted.
The Chemical Weapons Convention 1997(CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention has been signed by 192 states, with Israel not having ratified the treaty, and North Korea not being a part of it at all. This convention is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW), and lays out the steps for effective disarmament of chemical weapons. Once a state has ratified this convention it is required to declare all of its chemical weapons stockpiles and then take active steps to destroy them and convert their means of production into peaceful facilities.
The Biological Weapons Convention 1975(BWC)
179 nations have ratified or acceded to this convention; which bans the production, proliferation, and retention of biological weapons, and authorises the Security Council to investigate nations that have ratified the convention and subsequently retained or used biological weapons. Syria has signed the treaty, but not ratified it, and Israel has not signed or ratified the Treaty as a whole and does not intend to.
Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004)
This resolution passed unanimously through the Security and effectively dictates what is required of all nations in order to keep WMDs secure and progress towards the eventual complete disarmament of all nuclear weapons, although the resolution specifically tackles non-proliferation and the security of WMDs
The Partial Test Ban Treaty 1963(PTB)
This treaty bans all means of testing nuclear weapons except for underground detonations, but has not been ratified by almost any of the Central Asian nations, nor by China or North Korea.
UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/42/37C
This resolution grants the Secretary General the power to investigate chemical weapons attack. This power was used to investigate a Syrian chemical weapons attack in 2013.
Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty
This treaty established Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as areas that should not be threatened by, have access to, or be required to possess nuclear weapons, but this initiative has only received partial support from the five nuclear nations, which is imperative to the creation of a working Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,
The Treaty of Bangkok
In theory this treaty created a nuclear weapon free zone in South-Eastern Asia, but due to concerns regarding the shipping routes of nuclear nations in this area the treaty has not been ratified by any of the P%, therefore rendering it obsolete.
Within Asia there is only one nation that is recognized by the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968) as a legal nuclear nation: China, however there are a further four nations (Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea) that are recognised as having nuclear weapons without being recognised the NPT.
The volatile state of politics in the Middle East along with geopolitical tension in the Indian Subcontinent and the Korean Peninsula has created a uniquely complex and dangerous situation in Asia concerning WMDs. Although Syria ratified the CPW in 2013 there are still intact weapons within Syria, and it is widely accepted that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun in April 2017. The threat of chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists in the Middle East is a very real one, and every effort must be made to implement Security Council Resolution 1540 as soon as possible to prevent non-state actors from acquiring WMDs
The proliferation of nuclear intelligence has been a repeated problem in Asia; with China supplying knowledge to Pakistan concerning the development of nuclear weapons. Pakistan then went on to supply this knowledge to Iran and North Korea, which had already received extensive assistance from the former USSR and China. Asia is the only continent on Earth where two rival nuclear powers share a border; India and Pakistan, and this is a uniquely dangerous situation. The only nation to continue to test nuclear weapons is North Korea, and this has caused widespread outrage amongst the global community.
Although the UN does not have the capacity to control nations that have not ratified the relevant treaties it has previously and will continue to take actions against nations that remain illegally in possession of WMDs. Ensuring that WMDs do not fall into third party control is a key issue in areas of Asia where there is political instability or civil war, and efforts must be made in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1540 to protect the physical weapons, the secrets to making them, the machinery required for their production, and the raw materials needed to create them.
Mongolia is the first country in the world to be globally recognised as nuclear weapon free.
China is the only nation in Asia that is recognised by the NPT as a nuclear nation, but has not explicitly quantified the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal. China is known to have supplied nuclear weapons and materials to Pakistan before it ratified the NPT, and was also accused of sharing biological weapons with Iran, however in response to these allegations export control procedure was changed.
North Korea has withdrawn from the NPT, not ratified the CWC, and maintained an extensive biological weapons program despite being party to the BWC. As sanctions on North Korean heighten in severity it is worth noting that the possibility of the sale of nuclear weapons or knowledge to third parties is increasing, but due to North Koreas withdrawal from the NPT the only way this can be prevented is by intercepting any shipping or communications in nations that are party to the Treaty.
India is not part of the NPT and acquired nuclear weapons in order to maintain a rivalry with China. Given India’s passive conflict with Pakistan; another nuclear armed nation, there is serious concern that nuclear conflict in Asia is not far away.
Pakistan’s nuclear program developed in order to put them in contest with India with the aid of China, and they have previously been involved in the proliferation of knowledge and components for nuclear weapon development with other nations in the region.
Syria is the most recent nation to have been investigated using the powers granted to the Secretary General concerning chemical weapons use, and their lack of international cooperation with the international community when it comes to disarmament coupled with the instability facing the nation at the moment is a grave cause for concern
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW)
This body administers the CPW, and is empowered to aid the Secretary General in Chemical Weapons Investigations and oversee the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as aid in the transformation of Chemical Weapons facilities into peaceful factories.
International Atomic Energy Association(IAEA)
This is the body that regulates global safeguards for nuclear facilities and promotes the implementation of peaceful nuclear energy programs in nations that have ratified the NPT.
Websites for Further Research