Statement by H.E. Yoshiki Mine
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament
Sixth Review Conference to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
Geneva, 20 November 2006
At the outset, allow me to extend my delegation's congratulations to you, Ambassador Masood Khan, on your assumption of the chairmanship of the Sixth BWC Review Conference. Please be assured that the Delegation of Japan will contribute and cooperate to its utmost ability.
As the only international legal norm that comprehensively prohibits biological and toxin weapons, the BWC is one of the important pillars of the WMD disarmament and non-proliferation framework. Thus its review conferences are an important opportunity to assess the operation of the Convention; nonetheless, ten years have elapsed since the Fourth BWC Review Conference, when the last comprehensive article-by-article review was agreed to. In that period, the anthrax attacks took place in the U.S. and bioterrorism appears to be a realistic threat. Moreover, the occurrence of pandemics such as SARS, the dramatic advancement in life sciences and the rapid, global growth of the bioindustry have brought about new challenges for the BWC. Under these circumstances, Japan believes that tackling the following major issues is crucial.
For realizing the fundamental aim of the BWC - the complete ban of biological and toxin weapons - it is vitally important for each state party, with its own capabilities, to diligently execute its responsibilities under the Convention. To be more precise, internally - in addition to the enactment of legislation to implement the prohibitions of the BWC - security and oversight of pathogenic microorganisms and toxins; strengthening preventive and response capabilities, such as infectious disease surveillance and detection; and measures to raise public awareness, including codes of conduct for scientists are essential. Externally, strengthening export controls is also necessary.
Yet, some states parties might need certain assistance to fulfill these responsibilities. To address such a case, undertaking constructive discussions during this Review Conference on an appropriate form of assistance, and reaching agreement would be beneficial. Japan considers it desirable that the states parties in a position to do so provide, to the extent possible, assistance to the states parties requiring support.
With regards to cooperation for the peaceful use of biological agents and toxins, first and foremost, fulfillment of the aforementioned responsibilities by each state party is important for the sake of further cooperation.
As for multilateral cooperation, strengthening preventive and response capabilities such as disease surveillance and detection, not only at the national level, but also at the international level is vital. Infectious diseases can spread quickly across national borders - as evidenced by the recent SARS outbreak - and there is no way of judging at the initial stage whether such outbreaks are deliberate or natural. To that end, strengthening the activities of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and others is critical, and the BWC's cooperative relationship with these relevant organizations should be enhanced.
The aforesaid areas primarily address the recent problems of bioterrorism and infectious diseases; nevertheless, there still remain some issues among state actors.
First, regrettably, sufficient mutual trust has not been generated among the states parties with regard to the implementation of their obligations not to develop or acquire biological or toxin weapons. Therefore, casting off this mutual mistrust and improving security of the states parties is important, and specifically, strengthening confidence building measures (CBMs) is necessary. At present, however, the submission of CBM reports is still in a disappointing state. Accordingly, a concrete study of ways for encouraging and improving the submission of reports is essential.
Next, in the BWC a consultation and investigation mechanism has been provided as an active instrument to build mutual trust among the states parties when suspicions arise over a possible breach of the Convention. Its importance to the BWC, particularly as a safeguard to assure the compliance, should be reaffirmed. Moreover, regarding the issue of the use of biological or toxin weapons, we welcome the adoption this September in the UN General Assembly of "the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy" resolution, which mentions the UN Secretary General investigation mechanism. We could consider revitalizing this investigation mechanism, while utilizing existing international frameworks, in particular the WHO International Health Regulations.
Thirdly, to respond to both traditional and new challenges, further universalization of the Convention is crucial. In comparison to the Chemical Weapons Convention the BWC's status of universalization is still unsatisfactory. Along with increasing the number of states parties horizontally, it is necessary that the new states parties, upon accession to the Convention, adequately understand its structure and are determined to execute their responsibilities.
During the three year work programme carried out between 2003 and 2005, an active exchange of information and views took place on five areas related to the BWC, and the exercise, on the whole, was useful. Taking into account the recent dramatic advances in life science and changes in international affairs, especially bioterrorism threat, we should maintain a venue for regular discussions among states parties on topics that contribute to the strengthening of the Convention, in particular necessary measures to fulfill their aforementioned responsibilities. Therefore, it is desirable that this Review Conference agree on intersessional activities. Various options are possible for carrying out the intersessional activities, and we would like to concretely discuss them at this Conference.
In relation to a support mechanism for efficiently and effectively conducting intersessional activities, for the time being an ad hoc system should be examined for use until 2011. Flexibly assessing the topics that should be handled in the next intersessional activities is vital, in order to prevent the current financial burden of the states parties from increasing greatly.
International efforts related to the BWC - such as, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and 1673, the G8 Action Plan on Non-Proliferation, the revised International Health Regulations of 2005, the Final Report of the WMD Commission and the UN General Assembly's resolution on the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy - have been making steady progress. Against this backdrop, the achievements of this Review Conference will more than ever attract the keen attention of the international community. The delegation of Japan will make its utmost efforts to contribute to the success of this Review Conference. Moreover, we will listen intently to all the constructive proposals put forward and actively cooperate with the chairman and other states parties.
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