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US destroying its last chemical weapons as deadline approaches

This final push to destroy these weapons represents the U.S. commitment to a world free from chemical weapons.
US destroying its last chemical weapons as deadline approaches
Posted at 8:42 AM, Jul 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-07 17:35:36-04

The United States is getting close to eradicating the final remnants of its declared chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to World War I.

With a Sept. 30 deadline, the U.S. is working to destroy the last of 51,000 M55 rockets that are filled with sarin nerve gas and have been stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky since the 1940s, according to the Associated Press.

Initially, the Blue Grass Army Depot had an inventory that exceeded 523 tons of mustard and nerve agents that were primarily stored within rockets and projectiles, according to the Program Executive Office of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. They have destroyed 503.6 tons so far. 

The move will mark the culmination of a decades-long mission to eliminate a Cold War-era stockpile exceeding 30,000 tons and will enable the United States to fulfill its international commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which took effect in 1997 and was joined by 193 countries.

The treaty has been signed by all countries except Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan. Israel has signed the treaty but has not yet ratified it.

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This final push represents the U.S. commitment to a world free from chemical weapons by not just destroying them but also eliminating the use and production of these weapons to send a message to those countries that have not joined.

"Chemical weapons have been a scourge to humanity, and we are proud to be party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans this entire class of weapons of mass destruction," said Kingston A. Reif, deputy assistant defense secretary for Threat Reduction and Arms Control.

On Friday President Joe Biden encouraged other countries to commit to destroying their own stockpiles.

"This accomplishment not only makes good on our long-standing commitment under the Chemical Weapons Convention, it marks the first time an international body has verified destruction of an entire category of declared weapons of mass destruction," President Biden said in a statement.

Last month, an additional military facility located in Colorado successfully concluded the process of eliminating its entire stockpile. 

From March 2015 to June 2023, workers at the Army Pueblo Chemical Depot effectively dismantled over 780,000 munitions, which encompassed 2,613 U.S. tons of mustard agent.

The depots use Static Detonation Chamber units and robotic equipment to destroy the weapons and neutralize the nerve agent. 

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