Chinese experts to join Syria weapons mission

Updated: 2013-11-02 08:56


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BEIJING - Three Chinese experts will take part in a mission in Syria focusing on the destruction and verification of Syrian chemical weapons.

At the invitation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the experts will soon report to the organization's headquarters in The Hague, and then head to Syria to join the mission, said Li Yang, deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Arms Control, on Friday.

The three experts - Zhang Guohua and Guo Jianzeng from the Chinese army, and Yang Jianguo, a chemical engineer from the Development and Reform Commission of Hebei province - will receive two weeks of training in The Hague, according to Li.

He said all three experts are former OPCW members of staff and are highly experienced in the field of chemical weapons disposal.

The OPCW on Sunday announced that Syria submitted its formal initial declaration covering its chemical weapon program on October 24, including a general plan for destroying its weapons.

The United Nations Security Council said the OPCW will help Syria to destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014. The mission will be expanded with more investigators arriving in the country by November 1.

There is still no detailed working plan for the experts, said Guo Jianzeng, adding that they will wait for the instruction of the OPCW.

Given the unrest in Syria, the experts will receive security and technical training to be well prepared for their mission, added Guo.

"We have been working many years at the OPCW and are quite familiar with the standard operating procedures of the organization, so we will quickly adapt to our task," he said.

The OPCW on Thursday said Syria has destroyed all its declared equipment for the production of chemical weapons ahead of a November 1 deadline.

The destruction of the equipment was the first step toward eliminating the country's arsenal of banned weapons by mid-2014 under a September UN Security Council resolution.

The Hague-based watchdog said the next milestone would be November 15, by which time its Executive Council is supposed to approve a plan submitted by Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpiles.

Considering the special situation in Syria, its chemical stockpile may be transported to other existing destruction facilities within a short time, said Yang Jianguo.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday that China has always supported the OPCW to play a positive role in the destruction and verification of Syrian chemical weapons and is ready to provide capital and technical assistance.

Since the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, China has sent dozens of experts to take part in the inspection work of the OPCW, said Zhang Guohua, who has participated in verification work in the United States, Russia and India.