UN Committee on Disarmament Discussed Electromagnetic Weapons from 1979 to 1998

UN Committee on Disarmament Discussed Electromagnetic Weapons from 1979 to 1998
One excellent book is The United Nations and Disarmament: 1945-1985 by the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs. (1985) New York, UN Publication Sales No. E.85.IX.6. It describes electromagnetic weapons issues from 1975 through 1985. This East West political disagreement, as described in this excerpt from pages 114-116, continues today.
New types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons;radiological weapons
The question of new weapons of mass destruction has been under continuous consideration in the General Assembly and in the Conference on Disarmament for a number of years. The item “Prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons” was first included in the agenda of the General Assembly in 1975 at the initiative of the Soviet Union, which submitted a draft international agreement. The topic is at present on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament.
The Soviet Union and other socialist States in the Conference advocate a general prohibition of the development of new types and systems of weapons of mass destruction, on the ground that it is always more difficult to eliminate weapons after they are deployed than to ban their development and manufacture. With respect to the scope of the prohibition, those States have suggested that new types of weapons of mass destruction should include any type of weapon based on qualitatively new principles of action with regard to method of use, the target to be attacked or the nature of impact. Most Western countries, while agreeing that the subject should be kept under review, have taken a different approach, namely, that new scientific developments should be dealt with individually as they arise and appear to have a weapons potential. They have also held that the various developments pointed out by the Eastern European States as potential new weapons of mass destruction fall within categories that have already been identified and should be covered in that context, rather than as new weapons of mass destruction.
The Final Document of the 1978 special session of the General Assembly stated in paragraph 77 that in order to help prevent a qualitative arms race and so that scientific and technological achievements might ultimately be used solely for peaceful purposes, effective measures should be taken to avoid the danger and prevent the emergence of new types of weapons of mass destruction based on new scientific principles and achievements. The same year, the General Assembly, at its regular session, adopted two separate resolutions on the issue, one sponsored by the Western States and the other by the Eastern European States, reflecting the respective approaches.
Subsequently, the Soviet Union clarified its position by calling for a comprehensive agreement on the prohibition of new weapons of mass destruction that would be accompanied by a list of specific types to be banned, with the possibility of
adding to the list in the future and the possibility of concluding separate agreements on specific new types of weapons as they emerged. To that end, in 1979, the Soviet Union submitted a document to the Committee on Disarmament in which it listed some types of potential weapons of mass destruction, such as:
a. Radiological weapons (using radioactive materials) which could produce harmful radiation effects similar to effect of a nuclear explosion;
b. Particle-beam weapons based on the use of charged or neutral particles to affect biological targets. Sufficiently powerful bundles of particles could be produced in accelerators used for research; in some operating accelerators, the energy of accelerated particles attained hundreds of millions of electron volts. Reduction of the size and weight of accelerator systems and power sources could permit their use as weapons;
c. Infrasonic “acoustic radiation” weapons. they would utilize harmful effects of infrasonic oscillations on biocurrents of the brain and nervous system;
d. Electromagnetic weapons operating at certain radio-frequency radiations, which could have injurious effects on human organs. Within a few years, devices capable of directional transmission of electromagnetic radiation of enormous power over distances of several hundred kilometres might be developed, and radiation density in excess of safety standards could be produced over areas measuring dozens of square kilometres.
In response, the United States and other Western countries, while expressing readiness to work out agreements on specific types of weapons which might be identified, took the position that a single treaty on the subject of all potential new weapons of mass destruction would have to be so general in its scope and so vague in its definitions that it would not be effective.
Every year since 1979, the General Assembly, on the initiative of Eastern European and non-aligned States, has adopted resolutions on the issue which, in the light of the different positions held, have not received the support of Western States in the voting. In its resolutions, the Assembly, among other things, has requested the negotiating body in Geneva to conduct negotiations, with the assistance of qualified government experts, with a view to preparing a draft comprehensive agreement on the prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons and, where necessary, specific agreements on particular types of such weapons. Since 1981, the General Assembly has further called upon the permanent
members of the Security Council and other militarily important States to make declarations renouncing the creating of new types and systems of weapons of mass destruction, to be subsequently approved by the Security council.
In the Committee on Disarmament, the issue was discussed mainly during plenary meetings. In 1981 and 1982, periodic informal meetings were held with the participation of experts in order to identify cases which might require particular consideration and which would justify the opening of specific negotiations.
At its 1983 and 1984 sessions, that negotiating body discussed the question at plenary meetings and intends to do so in 1985. The item under which the matter is considered is entitled: “New types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons”. The Soviet Union and other socialist States have stressed the need for an ad hoc group of qualified governmental experts to elaborate both a general agreement and separate agreements on specific new weapons of mass destruction. Western States, while restating their view on the matter have pointed out anew that no such weapon has been identified so far and that the so-called nuclear neutron bomb, for example, about which concern has been expressed, could not be considered as a new weapon as is clearly a nuclear weapon and not based on new scientific principles. During the debate is has also been suggested that the more powerfully armed states should adopt unilateral measures to prevent the use of scientific and technical discoveries for military purposes. Because of these differences of approach, it has not been possible to establish an ad hoc group or other subsidiary body of governmental experts.

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