One area where Beijing and Tokyo can collaborate, with the support of other countries, is to encourage the few remaining outliers to join the treaty. Although the CWC has experienced unprecedented membership growth for a major disarmament treaty—188 countries representing 98 percent of the world’s population, landmass and global chemical industry have joined—several Asian governments remain aloof from the convention. Burma, for example, signed the CWC in 1993 but hasn’t ratified the treaty, while the North Korean government has never signed the convention.
Although China, Japan and other countries have rightly prioritized eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, the potential ease of use by terrorist groups means it would still be worthwhile pressing Pyongyang to destroy its chemical weapons as well.
Chinese officials are generally seen as having considerable influence with the regimes in both Burma and North Korea, and so could persuasively argue that joining the convention would help strengthen these two governments’ tarnished non-proliferation reputations. Japan for its part could appeal to their more pecuniary interests by offering to cover the costs involved in their becoming CWC compliant.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
And Tokyo would not need to bear this burden alone. Although the CWC specifies that parties must incur all the costs of verifiably eliminating their chemical weapons stockpiles, in practice foreign governments have provided financial and other support for such activities. Albania, Iraq and especially Russia have received billions of dollars worth of assistance through international threat-reduction programmes.
Indeed, Japan has already joined with the United States and the European Union in providing funding and other support for these initiatives. Brussels and especially Washington should therefore be equally generous in the case of the Asian outliers since transnational terrorists exploiting illicit trafficking networks could use any chemical weapons they acquire to attack targets anywhere on earth.
And a good place to begin this new partnership would be at the current Asia-Europe Meeting. With the diplomatic and financial encouragement of the other attendees, Kan and Wen could reap enormous dividends if they could agree to accelerate removal of all abandoned chemical weapons from China and start a joint outreach effort to induce Burma and North Korea to enter the Chemical Weapons Convention.
First though, they need to keep talking to each other.