chapter  7
Weapons inspections: China, the UN and the disarming of Iraq, 1991–2002
Pages 22

The elimination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq was made a major task of the Security Council in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. SCR 687 (3 April 1991) required Iraq to accept unconditionally the destruction, removal or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of its chemical and biological weapons, ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres, and their associated programmes, stocks, components, research and facilities (UN SCR 687 of 3 April 1991, pp.11-15). To realize these objectives, SCR 687 created a UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and established weapons inspections as the administrative mechanism for the verification of Iraq’s disarmament. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was charged with the abolition of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme. Iraq accepted SCR 687 and agreed to cooperate with UNSCOM. In August 1991 the Security Council adopted SCR 707 requesting Iraq to provide full, final and complete disclosure of all its WMD programmes and to provide UN inspectors with unconditional and unrestricted access to designated sites and facilities. SCR 715, adopted in October 1991, approved plans prepared by UNSCOM and the IAEA for the ongoing monitoring and verification (OMV) arrangements to implement SCR 687.1

However, the saga of UN weapons inspections in Iraq was characterized by persistent Iraqi obstruction and non-cooperation. For example, Iraq did not accede to SCR 715 until November 1993 and remained in breach of SCR 707 from 1991 until 2003. In 1999 the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) replaced UNSCOM to ‘establish and operate a reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification’ (UN DOCREUN DOC S/1284, 1999). Moreover, although the P-5 agreed to the objective of disarming Iraq, they had different opinions about specific measures. On the Iraqi part, Saddam Hussein successfully manipulated, for a time, the uncertainties and disunity among the P-5 members. The years of Iraqi disarmament involved a lasting battle in the fields of economic incentives, disinformation, public opinion, campaigns for influence, and diplomatic offensives. In this battle, China maintained its support for the work of UNSCOM/

UNMOVIC and the IAEA, and it was also concerned with stability and

sovereignty issues in Iraq. This chapter seeks to answer a central question: ‘what best explains China’s position and behaviour over, and its diplomacy and role in, this protracted mission of weapons inspections in Iraq?’ In so doing, it also sheds light on three additional sets of questions, namely, 1 what have been the main issues and difficulties in the protracted UN weapons inspections in Iraq? 2 How did China see these difficult issues and what was China’s role in the attempts in the Security Council to resolve these issues? 3 How did China resolve the contradictions and conflicts in its approaches and commitment to the norms concerning non-proliferation and state sovereignty? I contend that, in addition to the political and practical calculation of gains

and losses, China actually subscribed to what it claimed to be committed to – in the case of weapons inspections in Iraq, the norms of arms control and disarmament. Moreover, I argue that in circumstances where China’s interests and principles or beliefs clashed, China resorted to its strategic preferences over the course of action, in striking a balance between ‘principles’ and ‘flexibility’; and that the resultant policy actions were characterized by deliberation over all relevant factors in question, and thus endeavouring to pursue, as much as possible, a balanced policy.