Tokyo Seminar on the Biological Weapons Convention
- Future Measures for Strengthening the BWC -

Tokyo Seminar on the BWC was held from 16th to 17th July 2002 under the co-sponsorship of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Japan Institute of International Affairs. 11 panelists (mainly non-governmental researchers) and a dozen of international observers participated in the seminar. A presentation on the current situation of the BWC was given to begin with. Following this, three agenda items were discussed, with a view to strengthening the BWC, mainly from experts' (legal and technical) perspectives: (1) assessment of the threat of BW; (2) assessment of traditional approach centering upon verification measures; and (3) new approach other than verification measures.

It was argued that, as measures within the framework of the BWC, the implementation of the existing provisions should be vigorously promoted, such as Article 4 (national implementation of the Convention), Article 5 (consultation and cooperation), and Article 6 (lodging a complaint with the UN Security Council). Various additional measures beyond the framework of the BWC were also proposed. In the course of the discussions, some criticism was made against what was perceived to be unilateralism about the US policy on the BWC and other international treaties. The view was also expressed that the US has been actively engaged in multilateral approach and therefore, it did not make much sense to argue whether the US approach was unilateral or multilateral.

1. Assessment of the current threat of BW

In this section, the two major issues were discussed: (1) the threat of biological terrorism and (2) national program and state-sponsored terrorism. On the first issue, it was pointed out that the threat of biological terrorism had not drastically increased in recent years, and that the morbidity and mortality rate from bio-terrorist attacks had generally been low. That said, many participants shared the view that the core of the threat of biological terrorism lay in a psychological impact (i.e., fear and panic). On the second issue, the increasing possibility of breaches by States Parties to the BWC was pointed out.

Generally speaking, dangerous pathogens could be isolated relatively easily from natural sources, hence it was argued that the control over the transfer of such pathogens was not very useful. It was yet at the same time pointed out that control measures either by states or by treaties over certain dangerous pathogens could be useful. Some argued that the control over technology, other than pathogens themselves, should be pursued since special technology was indispensable for the development of BW. Others argued that all BW defense programs should be subject to international monitoring.

With regard to post-incidents measures, the importance of the followings were highlighted: (1) the preparedness of first responders (police, fire brigades, and medical centers); (2) the improvement of disease surveillance; and (3) crisis management. Some expressed the view that further efforts should be encouraged to grasp the intention of terrorists since terrorists select the methods and the scale of casualties according to their purposes.

2. Traditional approach: Verification measures

Some participants expressed the view that the Composite Text of Verification Protocol was beneficial to public hygiene of the State Parties and that it should be regarded as contribution to international security as a whole. As for verification measures provided in the Composite Text, while inspections and clarification visits were considered useful for verification of the development and production of BW, the improvement of these measures was considered necessary for a better result, taking into consideration of the unique nature of biological agents.

Others emphasized the following points: (1) the necessity of ensuring a prompt access to the inspected site; (2) the inappropriateness of establishing "threshold" since it was easy to breed even small quantities of biological agents; and (3) the necessity of having a wide range of declarations as it became relatively easy to identify the origin of biological agents by genetic sequence.

Judging from the current situation of the BWC, there lacked the likelihood of the introduction of legally binding verification methods being agreed upon in the near future. Hence, it was pointed out that such other measures as considered useful for the strengthening of the BWC should be pursued. It was argued at the same time that it was necessary to set up some sort of verification system in the long term.

3. New approach: measures other than verification

The view was expressed that the international community should consider measures necessary for countering the threat of biological terrorism and BW proliferation by states, and that to this end, multi-layered and diverse tools were required. Disarmament treaties like the BWC should be regarded as one of such tools. While until recently, state-level BW proliferation and biological terrorism have been considered as two separate things, the boundary between the two has become less clear since the September 11th of last year. In addition, science and technology has been in a dramatic progress, making it difficult for measures within the framework of traditional arms control to counter these biological threats. The rapid development of biological technology has made it inevitable for bio-industry to be involved in coping with BW threats. For these reasons, it is necessary to introduce new ways of thinking which are beyond traditional measures. These new measures should be accumulated to support indirectly norms established by the BWC.

The US alternative measures presented at the Fifth Review Conference of last year and the UK Green Paper published last April were also discussed. These proposals were generally commended as the basis for further strengthening of the BWC.

The idea of setting up a small-size secretariat for strengthening the BWC was advanced. However, there was skepticism voiced about its feasibility, given such problems as what its specific purpose and role were as well as its cost. There were also problematic examples of secretariats established by other arms control treaties. The importance of "keeping the ball rolling" was also emphasized in light of the experience of the NPT, which has been strengthened through the convening of various meetings, such as the Conference of States Parties, regional meetings, and non- governmental seminars.

(1) Legally binding measures

The potential of the following two treaties was discussed as examples of legally binding measures: 1) A treaty on criminalization of the BC weapons: one model of such treaty was already presented by the Harvard-Sussex program. The treaty may be debated in the future, for example at the Sixth Committee of the UN. While some pointed out the need to have a legal framework to extradite suspected criminals who breach the BWC, others expressed the view that it was sufficient to enact a domestic criminal legislation based upon the Article 4 of the BWC; and 2) A treaty on the physical protection of dangerous pathogens: some comments were made on a proposal presented by the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

(2) Other measures

  1. the dispatch of a fact-finding mission: The dispatch of a fact-finding mission under the auspices of the UN Secretary General is one way of investigating a BWC breach. However, various problems were pointed out. These include: 1) a decision on the dispatch of a mission can only be made with the request of a UN member or members; 2) a permission of the inspected state is required; 3) the subject of investigation is primarily limited to the activities of states, not including those of terrorists; and 4) the capability of the mission is considered insufficient to prevent the use of BW. The necessity for an inspection system, similar to the challenge inspection provided by the CWC, was also discussed.
  2. a working group of scientists: There was a proposal that a working group of scientists should be established to identify what combination of science and technology would constitute a threat of BW. On the question of the responsibility of each scientist, it was generally considered not difficult to draw up a code of conduct for scientists at the governmental level, but the necessity for convincing the national and international scientific community about the importance of it was also pointed out.
  3. CBMs: While further promotion of CBMs amongst States Parties was commended, the problems associated with these measures were pointed out, such as the possibility of opposition by some states due to possible negative impact on national security and industry.
  4. disease control measures: Proposals on disease control measures were considered useful. Yet, since such measures relate to the collection of intelligence information, such international organizations as WHO and OIE might be reluctant to go along beyond their organizational obligations.
  5. cooperation with biotechnology-related industry: In relation to a discussion on biotechnology- related industry (pharmaceutical and genetic engineering), a study paper by the Japan's Bio-industry Association on how to strengthen the BWC was circulated and introduced. The view was also expressed that it was important to have a close contact between the industry and the government, for instance through the establishment of a industry-government forum on the question of public safety. In particular, emphasis was given to the necessity of having the industry understand merits of receiving inspections when an inspection system is introduced.

4. How to approach the resumed session of the Fifth BWC Review Conference
(to be held in November 2002)

There are several unpredictable problems related to the results of the resumed session, such as the continuation of the Ad Hoc Group for drafting the Verification Protocol and the compliance issue of the BWC by States Parties. If no agreement can be made once again (as it was the case with last November's meeting), that would send the wrong signal to the international community. Therefore, it was a general sense in the seminar that the resumed session should at least set up a follow-up process, even if a final document fails to be agreed upon. While some argued that voting should be considered as the last resort to establish the follow-up process, the majority of the participants expressed the view that voting would only highlight differences among States Parties and that therefore, consensus rule should be fully respected.

* The organizers of the seminar take full responsibility for the wording and content of this summary.

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