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Delivery Systems

Unmanned delivery systems are capable of carrying payloads vast distances, and of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Controlling these systems helps control weapons of mass destruction, because without a delivery system the weapon has no way to reach its target. The regulation of these delivery systems rests on the Hague Code of Conduct, export control regimes and Cold War arms control treaties.

The 2002 International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, re-named The Hague Code of Conduct or HCOC, aims “to prevent and curb proliferation of Ballistic Missiles systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction,” and is to date the most advanced initiative taken by the international community to address the proliferation of ballistic missiles.”

This recent initiative calls on all 109 subscribing states “to exercise maximum possible restraint in the development, testing and deployment of Ballistic Missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, including, where possible, to reduce national holdings of such missiles.” Although The Code is not a legally binding treaty with which members must formally comply, all subscribing states agree to enact transparency measures on their national ballistic missile and space launch programs. These measures include the announcement of launches in advance and the provision annual reports on the amount and type of ballistic missiles launched each year.

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal non-treaty based (voluntary arrangement) export control regime with the aim of limiting the spread of missiles and missile technology. Partners have equal standing in the regime, and all MTCR decisions are taken by consensus. The MTCR was formed in 1987 by the G-7 (U.S., Canada, the former West Germany, Italy, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom). As of March 2001 there are 33 members.

Non-members of the MTCR and the HCOC have tried to address missiles through the UN. The UN General Assembly has requested the Secretary-General, to prepare a report on missiles in all its aspects three times with the assistance of a panel of governmental experts. The Secretary-General concluded his first report in July of 2002, following three meetings of the expert panel, but was unable to conclude the second report because of a lack of consensus in the group. The 2005 resolution requested the Secretary-General to submit a 2006 report identifying areas of consensus, to convene a 2007 panel of experts and report again on missiles in 2008.

During the second half of the Cold War the cornerstone of strategic stability between the super powers was the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from in 2002. This has allowed the U.S. to proceed with its plans to create a national ballistic missile shield. This program threatens to erode existing mechanisms for controlling nuclear arms and may lead to an arms race in space. The 1994 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which contains provisions on transparency and for the advance notice of ballistic missile launches, expires in 2009. The U.S. expressed a marked lack of interest in extending the treaty or pursing similar agreements in the future.

For more information:

Delivery Systems Resources Page