CBW Events is a project to create a record of events to enable and encourage understanding of how policies on the issues relating to chemical and biological warfare (CBW) and its prevention are developed.


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CBW Events -- July 2019 selections

Each month, entries for a small number of selected anniversaries of notable CBW-related events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

[Editorial note: This month's sample of entries has a particular focus on events fifty years ago. While there is much in the news about the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing this month, July 1969 was significant in the efforts to bring together international consensus on a Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). There were many countries that were not convinced at this stage of the merits of a stand-alone BWC, including the Soviet Union, as there were a number of proposals for international measures that would cover both biological and chemical weapons together. The UK government was overtly pressing for a stand-alone BWC while the US government was examining the potential implications of renouncing the use of biological weapons.]

50 years ago:

1 July 1969      The "Group of Experts" appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations under UN General Assembly resolution 2454A (XXIII) [see 20 December 1968] to report "on chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons and the effects of their possible use" publishes its findings as document A/7575 [see also 28 December 1968]. The report is circulated to UN member states and is made public the next day.

3 July 1969      In Geneva, the head of the US delegation, Ambassador James Leonard, reads a message from President Nixon to the disarmament negotiations.
     The President's text makes no reference to the British BWC proposal [see 6 August 1968 and 18 January], but states that the US "is prepared to examine carefully, together with other delegations, any approaches that offer the prospect of reliable arms control in this field".[1]
     Ambassador Leonard separately tells the ENDC that "we are not clear in our own minds whether it would be desirable to conclude a separate measure relating only to biological weapons" but that the British proposal would be studied carefully.[2]
     However, it is later noticed that a sentence — "the specter of chemical and bacteriological warfare arouses horror and revulsion throughout the world" — that had been approved by the President had been accidentally omitted from the version sent to Geneva and a revised text is circulated on 31 July.[3] Washington sources speculate that this omission reflects growing US ambivalence over the whole issue.[4]
     [1] ENDC/253, 23 July 1969, as reproduced in Documents on Disarmament 1969, pp. 300-01.
     [2] William C Selover, "War-gas issue strains US conscience", Christian Science Monitor, 12 August 1969, pp 1 & 3.
     [3] Thomas J Hamilton, "Criticism of germ warfare deleted from Nixon's text", International Herald Tribune, 1 August 1969, p 5.
     [4] William C Selover, "War-gas issue strains US conscience", Christian Science Monitor, 12 August 1969, pp 1 & 3.

10 July 1969      In Geneva, Fred Mulley, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, introduces, on behalf of the British Government, a "Draft Convention for the Prohibition of Biological Methods of Warfare and Accompanying Security Council Resolution".[1] The texts are also included in a White Paper presented to Parliament the next day.
     The text of the draft convention reads:

THE STATES CONCLUDING THIS CONVENTION

hereinafter referred to as the "Parties to the Convention",

RECALLING that many States have become Parties to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925,

RECOGNISING the contribution that the said Protocol has already made, and continues to make, to mitigating the horrors of war,

RECALLING FURTHER United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 2162B (XXI) of 5 December, 1966 [see 5 December 1966], and 2454 A (XXIII) of 20 December, 1968 [see 20 December 1968], which call for strict observance by all States to the principles and objectives of the Geneva Protocol and invited all States to accede to it,

BELIEVING that chemical and biological discoveries should be used for the betterment of human life,

RECOGNISING nevertheless that the development of scientific knowledge throughout the world will increase the risk of eventual use of biological methods of warfare,

CONVINCED that such use would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind and that no effort should be spared to minimise this risk,

DESIRING therefore to reinforce the Geneva Protocol by the conclusion of a Convention making special provision in this field,

DECLARING their belief that, in particular, provision should be made for the prohibition of recourse to biological methods of warfare in any circumstances,

HAVE AGREED as follows:


ARTICLE I

Each of the Parties to the Convention undertakes never in any circumstances, by making use for hostile purposes of microbial or other biological agents causing death or disease by infection or infestation in man, other animals, or crops, to engage in biological methods of warfare.


ARTICLE II

Each of the Parties to the Convention undertakes:

  (a) not to produce or otherwise acquire, or assist in or permit the production or acquisition of:

    (i) microbial or other biological agents of types and in quantities that have no independent peaceful justification for prophylactic or other purposes:

    (ii) ancillary equipment or vectors the purpose of which is to facilitate the use of such agents for hostile purposes;

  (b) not to conduct, assist or permit research aimed at production of the kind prohibited in sub-paragraph (a) of this Article; and

  (c) to destroy, or divert to peaceful purposes, within three months after the Convention comes into force for that Party, any stocks in its possession of such agents or ancillary equipment or vectors as have been produced or otherwise acquired for hostile purposes.


ARTICLE III

1. Any Party to the Convention which believes that biological methods of warfare have been used against it may lodge a complaint with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, submitting all evidence at its disposal in support of the complaint, and request that the complaint be investigated and that a report on the result of the investigation be submitted to the Security Council.

2. Any Party to the Convention which believes that another Party has acted in breach of its undertaking under Articles I and II of the Convention, but which is not entitled to lodge a complaint under Paragraph 1 of this Article, may similarly lodge a complaint with the Security Council and request that the complaint be investigated.

3. Each of the Parties to the Convention undertakes to co-operate fully with the Secretary-General and his authorised representatives in any investigation he may carry out, as a result of a complaint, in accordance with Security Council Resolution No ____


ARTICLE IV

Each of the Parties to the Convention affirms its intention to provide or support appropriate assistance, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to any Party to the Convention, if the Security Council concludes that biological methods of warfare have been used against that Party.


ARTICLE V

Each of the Parties to the Convention, undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures to strengthen the existing constraints on the use of chemical methods of warfare.


ARTICLE VI

Nothing contained in the present Convention shall be construed as in any way limiting or derogating from obligations assumed by any State under the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June, 1925.


ARTICLE VII

[Provisions for amendments.]


ARTICLE VIII

[Provisions for Signature, Ratification, Entry into Force, etc.]


ARTICLE IX

1. This Convention shall be of unlimited duration.

2. Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Convention, if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Convention, have jeopardised the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Convention and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardised its supreme interests.


ARTICLE X

[Provisions on languages of texts, etc.]

[Note: the square-bracketed text in articles VII, VIII and X is as appears in the original.]
     The draft Security Council resolution reads:

THE SECURITY COUNCIL,

WELCOMING the desire of a large number of States to subscribe to the Convention for the Prohibition of Biological Methods of Warfare, and thereby undertake never to engage in such methods of warfare; to prohibit the production and research aimed at the production of biological weapons; and to destroy, or divert to peaceful purposes, such weapons as may already be in their possession,   NOTING that under Article III of the Convention, Parties will have the right to lodge complaints and to request that the complaints be investigated,   RECOGNISING the need, if confidence in the Convention is to be established, for appropriate arrangements to be made in advance for the investigation of any such complaints, and the particular need for urgency in the investigation of complaints of the use of biological methods of warfare,   NOTING further the declared intention of Parties to the Convention to provide or support appropriate assistance, in accordance with the Charter, to any other Party to the Convention, if the Security Council concludes that biological methods of warfare have been used against that Party,

1. Requests the Secretary-General

  (a) to take such measures as will enable him

    (i) to investigate without delay any complaints lodged with him in accordance with Article III.1 of the Convention;

    (ii) if so requested by the Security Council, to investigate any complaint made in accordance with Article III.2 of the Convention:

and

  (b) to report to the Security Council on the result of any such investigation.

2. Declares its readiness to give urgent consideration

  (a) to any complaint that may be lodged with it under Article III.2 of the Convention; and

  (b) to any report that the Secretary-General may submit in accordance with operative paragraph 1 of this Resolution on the result of his investigation of a complaint;

and, if it concludes that the complaint is well-founded, to consider urgently what action it should take or recommend in accordance with the Charter.

3. Calls upon Member States and upon Specialised Agencies of the United Nations to co-operate as appropriate with the Secretary-General for the fulfilment of the purposes of this Resolution.

     [1] United Kingdom, "Draft Convention for the Prohibition of Biological Methods of Warfare and Accompanying Security Council Resolution", ENDC/255, 10 July 1969 [reproduced in The Disarmament Negotiations 1969, Cmnd 4399, July 1970, pp 89-92.]

11 July 1969      In London, a White Paper[1] is laid before Parliament containing the text of the British draft convention on prohibiting biological methods of warfare tabled in Geneva the previous day [see 10 July]. As well as containing the texts put forward in Geneva, the introduction includes the following text:

The most important international arms control agreement in the field of chemical and biological warfare is the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices, and extends the prohibition to cover the use of bacteriological methods of warfare. More than 60 states, including the United Kingdom, are parties to the Protocol.

2. In a speech to the Conference of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva on 16 July 1968 [see 16 July 1968] the Minister of State with special responsibility for disarmament (Rt. Hon. Fred Mulley, MP) in the Foreign Office, pointed to certain inadequacies of the 1925 Geneva Protocol and suggested that there was a strong case for trying to negotiate additional instruments to strengthen the Protocol, while keeping this in being. Since the problems involved in seeking to go beyond the Protocol appeared greater, and international opinion less clear, in the field of chemical weapons than in the field of biological warfare, Mr. Mulley proposed that the two be considered separately.

3. So far as chemical weapons were concerned, Mr. Mulley suggested that the Secretary-General of the United Nations should be asked to produce a report on the nature and possible effects of such weapons, with a view to providing the ENDC with an international scientific basis for future consideration of further measures for their limitation and control, as well as focusing public opinion on the issues involved. This suggestion was later taken up by the United Nations General Assembly and extended to include biological weapons as well. The report was issued by the United Nations Secretary-General on 1 July 1969 [see 1 July].

4. As regards biological weapons, Mr. Mulley suggested that it was possible now to conclude an instrument going beyond the Geneva Protocol. Subsequently, on 6 August, 1968, [see 6 August 1968] Mr. Mulley tabled a working paper at the ENDC calling for the early conclusion of a new convention which would prohibit the biological methods of warfare. This would supplement, but not supersede, the 1925 Geneva Protocol by prohibiting not only the use, but also the production and possession of biological agents for hostile purposes.

5. This Protocol aroused interest both in the ENDC and outside the Committee. The communiqué issued on 18 January, 1969, [see 18 January] at the end of the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London, welcomed the British proposal for a new Convention.

6. On 10 July, 1969, [see 10 July] at the ENDC in Geneva, Mr. Mulley formally tabled on behalf of HMG a draft Convention for the Prohibition of Biological Methods of Warfare, together with an associated draft Security Council resolution, and invited the comments of members of the Committee on the drafts.

7. Because of public interest in this subject, HMG have taken the step of publishing the drafts in this White Paper. It should, however, be noted that these drafts represent only one step in the process of negotiation and that HMG will be ready to consider changes in the drafts as the negotiations develop.

     [1] "Draft Convention for the Prohibition of Biological Methods of Warfare with Associated Draft Security Council Resolution tabled by the United Kingdom in the Conference of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament in Geneva on 10 July, 1969", Cmnd 4113, 11 July 1969, 7 pp.

25 July 1969      In the United States, former President Harry S Truman writes "Dear Congressman Kastenmeier, In reply to your letter of July 11th, I wish to state categorically that I did not amend any Presidential Order in force regarding biological weapons nor did I at any time give my approval to its use. With all good wishes, Sincerely yours, [signature]".[1]
     The letter is prompted by the continuing allegations that the US had made preparations to be the first to use biological weapons in the war with Japan [see 3 January 1946] and is taken to be a clear denial by Truman of allegations that he might have secretly revoked President Roosevelt's "no-first-use" policy for chemical and biological weapons prior to the end of the war in the Pacific.[2]
     [Note: A debatable point is that as these allegations related to actions taken in the last months of the war, at a time when the US was aware of allegations of biological warfare by Japanese forces against Chinese nationalist forces and civilians, that the US could have been in a position to argue any use of biological warfare against the Japanese would not be a "first use".]
     [1] As reproduced in: Simon M Whitby, Biological Warfare against Crops, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002, p 223.]
     [2] See, for example, Simon M Whitby, Biological Warfare against Crops, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002, p 240-1, fn 28.

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