Chemical weapon proliferation

Many nations continue to research and/or stockpile chemical weapon agents despite numerous efforts to reduce or eliminate them. Most states have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, which requires the destruction of all chemical weapons by 2012. Twelve nations have declared chemical weapons production facilities and six nations have declared stockpiles of chemical weapons. All of the declared production facilities have been destroyed or converted to civilian use after the treaty went into force. According to the United States government, at least 17 nations currently have active chemical weapons programs.

To the right is a summary of the nations that have either declared weapon stockpiles, or are suspected of secretly stockpiling or possessing CW research programs.

Chemical weapon details, per nation

Nation CW Possession Signed CWC Ratified CWC
Albania Known January 14, 1993[1] May 11, 1994[1]
Burma (Myanmar) Possible January 14, 1993[2] July 8, 2015[3]
China Probable January 13, 1993 April 4, 1997
Egypt Probable No No
India Known January 14, 1993 September 3, 1996
Iran Known January 13, 1993 November 3, 1997
Israel Probable January 13, 1993[2] No
Japan Probable January 13, 1993 September 15, 1995
Libya Known No January 6, 2004
North Korea Known No No
Pakistan Probable January 13, 1993 October 28, 1997
Russia Known January 13, 1993 November 5, 1997
and Montenegro
Probable No April 20, 2000
Sudan Possible No May 24, 1999
Syria Known No September 14, 2013
Taiwan Possible n/a n/a
United States Known January 13, 1993 April 25, 1997
Vietnam Probable January 13, 1993 September 30, 1998


Albania, as a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, declared in March 2003 a stockpile of 16 tons of chemical agents. On July 11, 2007, with the help of the U.S. government's Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, the Ministry of Defence announced successful destruction of the entire stockpile.


Angola has been accused of using chemical weapons in its civil war.[4]


According to the testimony Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Carl W. Ford before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, it is very probable that China has an advanced chemical warfare program, including research and development, production, and weaponization capabilities. Furthermore, there is considerable concern from the U.S. regarding China's contact and sharing of chemical weapons expertise with other states of proliferation concern, including Syria and Iran. Chinese government has declared that it had possessed small arsenal of chemical weapons in the past but that it had destroyed it before ratifying Convention. It has declared only two former chemical production facilities that may have produced mustard gas and Lewisite.[5]


According to a United Nations finding which cited suspicious residue affecting plant and animal life during the Cuban intervention in Angola, sarin and VX had been deployed against Angolan militants by the Cuban Army.[6]


Egypt has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and has long appeared on various lists as having an offensive chemical weapons capability, and is thought to possess production facilities for sarin, VX, mustard gas, and phosgene. Additionally, it is possible that Egypt may possess limited stockpiles of chemical bombs, rockets and shells.

The reasons for this belief are several:

In testimony before the Subcommittee on Seapower, Strategic and Critical Materials in 1991, US Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks cited this evidence in identifying Egypt as a "probable" chemical weapons possessor.

More recent analyses are more careful by estimation the current status of chemical weapons program in Egypt. Only one facility has been identified as "likely involved" in the offensive activities. Although the offensive program may be still in existence, it does not seem that Egypt has a considerable stockpile of operational weapons.[7]


In 1991 Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks identified Ethiopia as a "probable" chemical weapons possessor in testimony before Congress. Ethiopia has ratified CWC in 1996 and did not declare any offensive CW program. From that time no evidence has been presented to contradict this statement.


In 1997, in compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Indian government declared that it possessed a chemical weapons stockpile and opened its related facilities for inspection. Also in compliance with the CWC, it has destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile.[8]


Near the end of the Iran–Iraq War, Iran is supposed to have made limited use of chemical weapons, and since that time has been steadily building stockpiles of cyanide (cyanogen chloride), phosgene, and mustard gas. The delivery vehicles Iran possesses includes artillery shells, mortars, rockets, and aerial bombs.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Iran currently maintains at least two major facilities for the research and production of chemical weapon agents. Iran began its production of nerve agents no later than 1994.

Iran signed the Chemical Weapons Convention on January 13, 1993 and ratified it on November 3, 1997, and denies allegations of having clandestine CW program in violation of CWC. In the official declaration submitted to OPCW Iranian government admitted that it had produced mustard gas in 1980s but that ceased the offensive program and destroyed the stockpiles of operational weapons after the end of war with Iraq.[9]


Well before Operation Desert Storm or the U.N. inspections that followed it, Iraq had already begun to build chemical weapons. After launching a research effort in the 1970s, Iraq was able to use chemical weapons in its war against Iran and to kill large numbers of its own Kurdish population in the 1980s. During the first Gulf War, there were fears that Iraq would launch chemical-tipped missiles at its neighbors, particularly Israel, but Iraq refrained for fear of U.S. retaliation. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition troops again feared they might be hit with chemical weapons, though this did not come to pass.

By 1991, as part of the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire agreement, the United Nations passed Resolution 687 which established its Special Commission (UNSCOM). The UNSCOM was charged with the task of destroying, removing, or rendering harmless "all chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities."

By the time UNSCOM left Iraq in December 1998, it had eliminated a large portion of Iraq's chemical weapon potential. UNSCOM had overseen the destruction or incapacitation of more than 88,000 filled or unfilled chemical munitions, over 600 tons of weaponized or bulk chemical agents, some 4,000 tons of precursor chemicals, some 980 pieces of key production equipment, and some 300 pieces of analytical equipment. Notwithstanding these extraordinary achievements, there remained important uncertainties regarding Iraq's holdings of chemical weapons, their precursors, and munitions.


As of December 2004, Israel has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, and according to the Russian Federation Foreign Intelligence Service, Israel has significant stores of chemical weapons of its own manufacture. It possesses a highly developed chemical and petrochemical industry, skilled specialists, and stocks of source material, and is capable of producing several nerve, blister and incapacitating agents.

In 1974, in a hearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, General Almquist stated that Israel had an offensive chemical weapons capability.

In 1992, El Al Flight 1862 bound for Tel Aviv crashed outside Amsterdam. In the course of the crash investigation, it was revealed that amongst the plane's cargo was fifty gallons of dimethyl methylphosphonate, a chemical that can be used in the production of the nerve agent sarin. The dimethyl methylphosphonate was bound for the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona, a top secret military installation outside Tel Aviv that was also responsible for producing the poison used in a September 1997 assassination attempt on a leader of the Palestinian militant organization Hamas (Khaled Mashal). According to Israeli officials, the substance was only for defensive research purposes, to test filters for gas masks.

The 1993 the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment WMD proliferation assessment recorded Israel as a country generally reported as having undeclared offensive chemical warfare capabilities.

In October 1998, the London Sunday Times reported that Israeli F-16 fighters were equipped to carry chemical weapons, and that their crews have been trained on the use of such weapons.

According to more recent analyses, there is no evidence of production or stockpiling the chemical weapons by Israel.[10] The offensive CW program almost certainly existed in the past but its current status is unknown.[11]


As of December 1993, Japan has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Japan ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1995. However, JSDF possess chemical weapons facilities and some samples for use in development of protection against chemical weapons which it said JGSDF Central NBC protection Troop. In 1995, JGSDF admitted possession of samples of sarin.


Libya produced limited quantities of chemical weapons during the 1980s, and is known to have used such weapons in combat at least once when it attempted to use chemical weapons against Chadian troops in 1987.

Since then, Libya constructed what is believed to be the largest chemical weapon production facility in the developing world in the Rabta industrial complex. This facility was the cornerstone of the Libyan CW program, and has produced mustard gas, sarin, and phosgene since production began in the late 1980s. In March 1990 a suspicious fire broke out there following accusations by the United States.[12]

Strict United Nations sanctions from 1992 to 1999 rendered Rabta inactive. Libya's chemical program was completely abandoned on December 19, 2003 along with their other weapons of mass destruction programs as part of a program to get sanctions lifted and normalize relations with foreign governments. In 2004, between 27 February and 3 March, Libya destroyed 3,200 chemical weapon artillery shells under supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). On March 5, 2004, Libya declared a stockpile of 23 tons of mustard gas as well as precursors for sarin and other chemicals. Libya officially acceeded to the Chemical Weapons Convention in June 2004.

Myanmar (Burma)

Intelligence regarding Myanmar's chemical weapon status is mixed, and sometimes contradictory. In the late 1990s, US naval intelligence identified Myanmar (then referred to as Burma) as developing chemical weapons capabilities. Later, other officials contridicted that statement, claiming that the evidence supporting Burma's chemical stockpile development was primarily based upon circumstantial evidence.[13] However, in 1991, in testimony before the Subcommittee on Seapower, Strategic and Critical Materials in 1991, US Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks identified Myanmar as a "probable" chemical weapons possessor.

In July 2014 five journalists in Myanmar were sentenced to 10 years in jail after publishing a report saying Myanmar was planning to build a new chemical weapons plant on farmland in the country's Magwe Region.[14]

Myanmar signed the Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 January 1993,[2] and ratified the agreement on 8 July 2015.[15] The convention entered into effect 7 August 2015.[16][17]

North Korea

North Korea did not sign CWC and is believed to have maintained an extensive chemical weapons program since mid-1950s. The program includes research, production, stockpiling and weaponisation of large quantities of chemical agents (perhaps as many as 5000 tons), including blister, nerve, choking, psychoincapacitant, vomiting and riot control agents. Several dozen facilities has been identified as likely involved in the offensive program. The production capability of these facilities is estimated as 4500 tons of chemical agents per year. North Korean armed forces have also large quantities of delivery systems that could carry chemical warheads, including different artillery systems, aerial bombs, mines, tactical ballistic missiles (SCUD), and long-range ballistic missiles (Nodong and Taepodong-2 systems). However, the technological advancement of this program is uncertain, and some sources doubt whether North Korea is able to produce large quantities of nerve agents or to fit the chemical warheads on its long-range ballistic missiles.[18]


In 1991 Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks identified Pakistan as a "probable" chemical weapons possessor in testimony before Congress. However, more recent analyses indicate that although Pakistan, as many other countries with well-developed chemical industry, has technical capabilities for the production of chemical weapons, there is no evidence that it has ever possessed such weapons. Pakistan has ratified CWC in 1997 and did not declare any offensive activities in this area.[19]
See also Naela Chohan, First woman and civilian to head the National Authority on the Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in Pakistan.


Russia has destroyed about 25,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 62 percent of its 40,000-ton stockpile as of April 29, 2012 - the deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention for complete arsenal destruction. Russia has already postponed the completion until 2015, but expects 2020 to be more realistic.[20]

Serbia and Montenegro

The former Yugoslavia is known to have produced a variety of chemical weapons (CW). The majority of stockpiled CW is believed to have been inherited by its successor, Serbia.

Reports indicate that the former Yugoslavia's Army produced large quantities of sarin (50 tons), sulfur mustard, phosgene, the incapacitant BZ (allegedly a stockpile of 300 tons), and tear gas. At least four chemical warfare production facilities have been identified in Serbia: Prva Iskra in Baric; Miloje Blagojevic in Lucani; and Milojie Zakic and Merima in Krusevic. While the Trajal plant in Krusevic has been shut down, serious questions exist about accounting and previous production and storage of chemical materials there, as well the lack of accounting on the other three sites.

Yugoslavia used its CW technologies to develop chemical munitions for Iraq prior to the first Gulf War in the "Little Hawk" program and chemical munitions for the Orkan MLRS system under the "KOL15" program. There have been allegations that CW were used in the area of the former Yugoslavia: both Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats alleged that Bosnian government forces used chlorine during the conflict in Bosnia; Bosnian Serbs allegedly used BZ against Moslem refugees in July 1995; and the FRY Army may have used BZ against Kosovo Albanians in 1999. Mysterious deaths during the 1999 NATO bombings of suspected chemical facilities have also been attributed to CW production.

The former Yugoslavia signed the Geneva Protocol in 1929. In April 2000, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

South Korea

Prior to 1997, South Korea was strongly suspected of possessing an active chemical weapons program, and was identified as a "probable" chemical weapons possessor by the United States.

On April 18, 1997, South Korea signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and made a secret declaration. It is thought that South Korea is the "state party" referred to in Chemical Weapons Convention materials. There are reports that South Korea is operating a secret facility in Yeongdong County, Chungcheongbuk-do Province for the destruction of chemical agents.

South Sudan

In February 2016, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition accused the South Sudanese government of attacking them with chemical weapons in the ongoing South Sudanese Civil War.[21]


Some past reports of uncertain credibility indicated that Sudan may have used chemical weapons against the rebels in the southern part of this country. Sudan accessed to CWC in 1999 and did not declare any offensive CW program. U.S. Department of State claims that it lacks sufficient evidence to determine whether Sudan is engaged in activities prohibited by CWC.[22]


On September 14, 2013, the United States and Russia announced an agreement that would lead to the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles by mid-2014.[23] Syria officially acceded to the CWC on October 14,[24] but has yet to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is believed Syria first received chemical weapons in 1973 from Egypt in the form of artillery shells. Since then it is thought Syria has one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East

Syrias Chemical Arsenal

Syria is thought to have amassed large quantities of Sarin, Tabun, Mustard and is currently weaponizing VX. Exact quantities are hard to know although the CIA has estimated Syria to possess several hundred liters of chemical weapons with hundreds of tons of agents produced annually.


Syria has 4 main production sites. One just North of Damascus, one near Homs, one in Hama and one, al-Safir South East of Aleppo


U.S. Congress was informed in 1989 that Taiwan could have acquired offensive chemical weapons capability, including stockpiles of sarin. The alleged facilities include Tsishan and Kuanhsi. Taiwanese authorities acknowledged only the existence of defensive research program.[25]

United States

The United States has possessed a stockpile of chemical weapons since World War I. It banned the production or transport of chemical weapons in 1969. The U.S. began chemical weapons disposal in the 1960s, first by deep-sea burial. By the 1970s, incineration was the disposal method used. The use of chemical weapons was renounced in 1991 and the U.S. signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993. 89.75% of the treaty declared stockpile was destroyed by January 2012.

See also


  1. 1 2 "STATUS OF PARTICIPATION IN THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION AS AT 14 OCTOBER 2013". Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. OPCW. 14 October 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 "SIGNATORY STATES". Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. OPCW. 2 September 2013.
  3. "Myanmar Joins Chemical Weapons Convention". OPCW. 9 July 2015.
  4. Pothuraju, Babjee (July–December 2012). "Chemical Weapons Profile of Angola". Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  5. NTI Research Library: country profile: China
  6. Hawk, Kathleen Dupes; Villella, Ron; Varona, Adolfo Leyva de (30 July 2014). Florida and the Mariel Boatlift of 1980: The First Twenty Days. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 978-0817318376. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  7. NTI Research Library: country profile: Egypt - chemical weapons
  8. India destroys its chemical weapons stockpile.
  9. Iranian Use of Chemical Weapons: A Critical Analysis of Past Allegations Archived February 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. NTI country profile - Israel
  11. NTI country profile - Israel (chemical weapons).
  12. United Nations General Assembly Session 45 Document 179. A/45/179 page 2. 23 March 1990. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  13. Report of the Henry L. Stimson Center, “Chemical Weapons Proliferation Concerns”; found online at (accessed 20 March 2008).
  14. "Report on chemical weapons earn Myanmar journalists jail term with hard labour". Myanmar News.Net. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  15. "Myanmar Joins Chemical Weapons Convention". OPCW. 9 July 2015.
  16. "Chemical weapons ban goes into force in Myanmar". Myanmar News.Net. The News International. 8 August 2015.
  17. "Myanmar Joins Chemical Weapons Convention". BioPrepWatch. 9 August 2015.
  18. See North Korea's profile on NTI
  19. NTI Research Library: country profile: Pakistan - chemical weapons
  20. "Russia may delay chemical weapons destruction until 2020". Panarmenian.Net. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  21. Tekle, Tesfa-Alem (2016-02-01). "S. Sudan rebels accuse gov't forces of using chemical weapons". Sudan Tribune. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  23. Smith-Spark, Laura; Cohen, Tom (September 14, 2013). "U.S., Russia agree to framework on Syria chemical weapons". CNN. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  24. "Syria chemical weapons: OPCW plea for short ceasefires". BBC. October 14, 2013. Retrieved 14 October 14, 2013. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  25. NTI: country profile Taiwan Archived November 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-12-29. Retrieved 2015-01-19.
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