Pres. Joe Biden announced on Friday that the US has fully destroyed decades-old chemical weapons.
“This brings us one step closer to a world free from the horrors of chemical weapons,” said the US president.
The US was the last of the signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention enacted in 1997 to destroy “declared” stockpiles. Some states are said to still have secret stockpiles of chemical weapons.
The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) called the milestone a “historic success of disarmament”, more than a century after the uncontrolled use of chemical gases in the First World War caused mass deaths and injured several soldiers.
The announcement by the US means that all declared chemical weapons stockpiles in the world have now been destroyed, the OPCW said.
Biden said it was the first time that “an entire category of declared weapons of mass destruction” had been verified to have been destroyed.
The announcement comes after the Blue Grass Army Depot, an army facility in Kentucky, destroyed about 500 tons of deadly chemical agents over a period of four years. These were the last drugs the US military still had in its possession.
For decades, the US stockpiled projectiles and rockets containing mustard gas, VX and sarin nerve agents and incendiary agents.
These types of weapons were widely condemned after their use with horrific consequences in the First World War. It was not used significantly in World War II, but many countries retained the drugs and developed them further in the years after.
The most famous incident of use since the 1970s was when Iraq launched nerve gas attacks on Iran during their war in the 1980s.
Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria has more recently used chemical weapons on opponents in the country’s civil war, according to the OPCW and other organizations.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, which was agreed in 1993 and entered into force in 1997, gave the US until September 30 this year to destroy all its chemical agents and weapons.
According to the American Arms Control Association, in 1990 the USA possessed around 28,600 tons of chemical weapons – the world’s second largest amount after Russia. Russia destroyed all of its declared stockpiles in 2017.
Biden calls on the four countries that have not signed the agreement, Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan, to also get rid of their chemical weapons.
Four countries are believed not to have declared or destroyed all chemical weapons, namely Myanmar, Iran, Russia and Syria.