printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Statement to the Executive Council Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Sixtieth Session

Robert P. Mikulak
U.S. Representative to the OPCW Executive Council 
The Hague, Netherlands
April 20, 2010


Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates,

As we begin the Sixtieth Session of the Executive Council, I would like to take a moment to thank you, Ambassador Lomónaco, for your outstanding service this past year as Chairman. Under your leadership, we always have reached consensus, even during difficult times, and we have accomplished some very important work. I am confident that we will continue that tradition of successful consensus-building this week during the last session under your Chairmanship. As always, you certainly have the full support of the U.S. delegation.

The United States is pleased to announce that last week we authorized full payment of the outstanding balance of our 2010 assessed contribution to the OPCW. In previous years, due to our domestic financial calendar, we had to split our payment: 30 percent of our assessment in the first part of the year and the remaining 70 percent in the last three months. However, we have now been able to regularize our payment schedule so that our full assessment can be paid in the first part of the year. This further underlines the importance we place in the OPCW and also demonstrates our commitment to the Organization and to its continued success and financial health.

We also are pleased that our agenda this week includes a request by Georgia for a multi-year payment plan to regularize payment of its outstanding contributions. We hope that the Council will support this request, and we urge the Technical Secretariat to reach out to other eligible member states to encourage them to avail themselves of this mechanism to regularize their financial standing with the Organization.

Mr. Chairman, the United States continues to support fully the ongoing consultations under your leadership on “how and when” to initiate discussion by the Council on issues related to meeting the final extended deadline for the destruction of chemical weapons. We look forward to the continuing consultations under your successor, and to receiving the input of the Technical Secretariat on legal and administrative implications. These working papers will assist the Council’s deliberations as it carefully reviews options and works to find consensus solutions that will maintain the integrity of the Convention and keep the Organization strong.

The United States recently provided the Director-General details on measures taken to accelerate the destruction of its remaining stockpile. In 2006 when the United States requested an extension of its deadline for destruction, the U.S. had destroyed 36.4 percent of its stockpile, and projected that it would destroy only approximately 66 percent by the extended deadline of April 29, 2012. As we reported during this week’s Destruction Informal Consultation, as of March 31, 2010, the United States has completed the destruction of 71.1 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, which is a significant achievement. The United States is fully committed to meeting its obligation under the Convention to destroy 100 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, as rapidly as possible and in a manner that is safe and environmentally sound.

Mr. Chairman, as progress is made on the elimination of chemical weapons stocks, this Council will grapple with several issues associated with the future of the OPCW. The peak year for verification activities at chemical weapons destruction facilities probably will be 2011. Following 2011, there likely will be a significant decrease in the requirement for chemical weapons demilitarization inspectors and a need to maintain a strong cadre of inspectors for the verification of chemical industrial facilities. In addition, the inspectorate will also be impacted when the Director-General’s exceptional authority under the tenure policy to grant contract extensions beyond the seven-year period expires in 2012.

States Parties will need to work very closely with the Technical Secretariat to maintain the correct size, balance of skill sets and capabilities of technical expertise to ensure the viability of the Convention’s verification regime. Although the requirement for chemical weapons demilitarization inspectors will decline, it will be important to effectively maintain an adequate number of inspectors with this unique expertise. The Technical Secretariat will need to attract and maintain a qualified pool of inspectors with relevant skills in chemical weapons demilitarization, such as munitions identification and handling, and explosive ordnance disposal. Maintaining these skill sets will be necessary to sustain the OPCW’s capability to deal with old and abandoned chemical weapons, discovered chemical weapons, recovered munitions, challenge inspections, investigations of alleged use, and the possible accession of additional possessor states.

In addition, we must also consider how best to allocate available resources across the Technical Secretariat, to best accomplish non-proliferation activities and other core areas of work, including Articles VII, X, and XI of the Convention. Regarding the non-proliferation elements of the Convention, other chemical production facilities (or, OCPFs) remain a focal point of attention. We appreciate the efforts of Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk of South Africa in his role as facilitator, as well as the work of the Technical Secretariat, in assessing ways to focus OCPF inspections toward the most relevant plant sites through possible enhancement of OCPF declarations. It is increasingly important that we resolve long-outstanding issues related to OCPFs and other parts of the industry verification regime.

Perhaps the most critical outstanding industry-related issue is the methodology for selecting OCPF plant sites for inspection. According to the Convention, the basis for incorporating States Parties’ proposals into the methodology should have been decided by the year 2000. However, ten years later we still have only an interim site selection methodology. We believe that the Council should quickly reactivate this important facilitation so that the site selection methodology finally can be fully implemented in accordance with the requirements of the Convention.

The United States also remains interested in working with the Technical Secretariat and interested States Parties to use the OPCW as a forum for discussing chemical safety and security issues. As the Director-General points out in his recent Note on the “Status of the OPCW’s Contribution to Global Anti-Terrorism Efforts,” there are relevant linkages to Articles X and XI. The United States looks forward to working with other States Parties, the Technical Secretariat, and the Facilitator of the Open-Ended Working Group on Terrorism, Mr. Mike Byers of Australia, in this regard.

Mr. Chairman, there is another issue that I would like to raise, which is the convergence of chemistry and biology resulting from the advances in understanding of the chemistry of biological systems. Bacteria are now being engineered to perform industrial chemical production processes. Each of us should consider how the convergence of chemistry and biology might affect the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the CWC's relationship to the Biological Weapons Convention.

Mr. Chairman, this Council session will be the last time we will work together with a number of colleagues who will be concluding their time on the Council. The United States thanks each of them for their contributions to the OPCW. We appreciate their willingness to serve and certainly wish them all the best. The United States also looks forward to electing a new set of officers for the Council, whose energy and expertise will be critical to continuing to advance our work. There also are several openings for facilitators on a number of important issues, and the United States hopes that some delegates will volunteer their service to the Organization by taking up these duties that contribute so significantly to achieving the goals of our Organization.

In closing, I would like to request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the Sixtieth Session of the Council.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.