Training begins for weapons destruction

Updated: 2013-11-05 00:14

By Mo Jingxi and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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Training begins for weapons destruction

From left: Zhang Guohua and Guo Jianzeng, chemical warfare experts in the People's Liberation Army, and Yang Jianguo, a chemical engineer, start two weeks’ preparation on Monday for duties in Syria. MO JINGXI / CHINA DAILY

3 Chinese experts aim to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal by June

Three Chinese experts on Monday began training in The Hague on how to verify the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons — the most dangerous assignment in the history of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Experts said that given the current situation in Syria, the destruction of chemical weapons there can be finished by the June 30 deadline despite the military conflict there.

Besides, Syria's domestic turbulence is unlikely to endanger the destruction work since all parties in the conflict have reached a consensus on it, they said.

"It will be the first time that OPCW has worked under such circumstances — during a civil conflict — since the organization was set up in 1997," said Zhang Guohua, a member of the Chinese team and a chemical weapons inspector in Iraq a decade ago.

The three Chinese inspectors were selected from a list of 10 candidates China provided.

Zhang and Guo Jianzeng, both chemical warfare experts in the People's Liberation Army, as well as Yang Jianguo, a chemical engineer, are all former inspectors of the OPCW.

Wu Sike, China's special envoy to the Middle East, told China Daily: "The Chinese experts' participation in the task shows that China is making concrete efforts in the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, which has become a hot issue worldwide.

"The weapons destruction is proceeding smoothly and, hopefully, the work can be completed before mid-2014, as requested by a UN resolution," Wu said.

Guo said the work was scheduled to focus on inspection and verification of Syria's chemical weapons destruction to "make sure that the chemical weapons are effectively destroyed".

"We'll verify that the metal parts are turned to scrap, and the chemical agents can no longer produce chemical weapons," he said

OPCW announced in October that all of Syria's declared equipment for the production of chemical weapons has been destroyed, a major step in the destruction work. The Executive Council of the organization is scheduled to approve the final plan to eliminate the chemical weapons in November.

‘Actively engaged'

"Considering the special situation in Syria, it is possible that the chemical weapons will be moved to other countries that already have destruction facilities to save time," said Yang Jianguo, who has worked in OPCW since 1997 and retired in 2010.

However, that possibility still depends on the final destruction plan, he said.

Li Guofu, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Chinese professionals' involvement shows that China is fully aware of its responsibilities and obligations as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and wants to play a full role in peacekeeping.

"It is of great significance, not only for Syria. It shows that China is actively engaged in global affairs," Li said.

Li said the situation in Syria has changed dramatically after the international community promoted a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.

"Certain forces in Syria, supported by some countries secretly, are making trouble and obstacles for the Second Geneva Convention. Militants even launched several terrorist attacks," Li said.

He suggested the Chinese chemical experts "pay high attention" to their security.

Yin Gang, an expert on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China has always tried its best in tasks assigned by the UN.

In 2003, China sent Yu Jianxing, a top expert in chemical defense for the destruction of chemical weapons to Iraq. Yu, then head of the UN weapons inspection group in Iraq, died in an accident during the assignment.

"Despite this great sacrifice, China, as a major power with chemical defense capabilities and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, still performs its responsibilities," Yin said.

The Ministry of National Defense said on Friday that Beijing is paying close attention to the security of its experts.

The ministry told China Daily that Chinese officials "have expressed our hope to the organization and the UN that security of the experts can be guaranteed, as well as logistics support for their work".

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