Opening Remarks by Assistant Secretary Thomas M. Countryman at the PSI Mid-Level Political Meeting
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Good Morning, I am delighted to welcome you to Washington for the first Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Mid-Level Political Meeting (MLPM). This meeting marks the mid-point between the 2013 High-Level Political Meeting held in Warsaw to mark the PSI’s Tenth Anniversary and the next High-Level Political meeting to be held in 2018 to commemorate the Fifteenth Anniversary of the PSI.
The PSI is a unique and dynamic activity that demonstrates the strong commitment and political will of the international community to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Moreover, PSI promotes concrete international cooperation, and practical improvements, in national capabilities actually to conduct interdictions. PSI sets itself apart from traditional international organizations by encouraging voluntary actions by individual states and like-minded groups of states.
When the PSI was established in 2003, it brought forth an informal and flexible framework, with its Statement of Interdiction Principles designed in recognition of the complexities often involved with interdicting WMD-proliferation-related shipments that usually involve dual-use items with civilian and military applications, and where a variety of national and international authorities can come into play. The flexible framework of the PSI, which facilitates cooperation and capacity-building in many different areas, is ideal for this task.
Our efforts over the last thirteen years have demonstrated the success of that model. We are now 105 endorsing nations in all regions. Many of the difficult issues we have discussed in our many PSI meetings, workshops, and exercises – such as transit and transshipment controls, national authorities, and proliferation finance, to name a few – have now entered the larger international agenda. Our proactive work has promoted a global effort toward taking actions to stop WMD-proliferation-related shipments; influenced UN Security Council resolutions aimed at preventing proliferation; improved national authorities; and promoted new international agreements through which countries can prohibit the use of commercial ships for WMD trafficking. All of these measures are concrete ways in which the original “PSI idea” has produced significant results. In that, the PSI is functioning exactly as was intended, and as it should continue to do so.
Our meeting today provides an important opportunity to build on this impressive set of accomplishments to assess the current health and future prospects for the PSI. In particular, we will evaluate the extent to which we have fulfilled the various commitments we all made at the 2013 HLPM, including in the four Joint Statements most of us subscribed to there, and how we can promote their implementation in the run-up to the 2018 HLPM.
Next, we will look to the future and ascertain how best to leverage are current commitments to upgrade our capabilities in a changing proliferation environment. Specifically, we will discuss the fluid nature of the proliferation threat, the role of Proliferation Finance, and explore possible recommended topics to be addressed at the Fifteenth Anniversary HLPM in 2018.
This meeting is particularly timely now that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the EU/E3+3 and Iran has been implemented, the previous UN Security Council resolutions on Iran have been terminated, and the provisions of UN Security Council resolution 2231 regarding the transfer of nuclear-, ballistic missile-, and conventional arms-related items have been activated. However, all of us as PSI members must remain mindful to the fact that, except in a few limited circumstances, the transfer of nuclear-, ballistic missile-, and conventional arms items remain prohibited under UNSCR 2231 unless explicitly approved by the Security Council. It is important for the PSI community to understand clearly the provisions of the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231– whether we are suppliers, transshipment countries, financiers, or flag states – and we must remain vigilant to prohibited proliferation that has not received this advance, case-by-case approval by the Security Council.
We have 69 PSI endorsing countries represented today and it is truly encouraging to see the representation of so many of our partners. I would also like to welcome those countries that have endorsed the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles since the 2013 HLPM:
- Malaysia, and
- Trinidad & Tobago
We welcome your assistance in this global commitment to strengthen nonproliferation capacities. I would also like to encourage all of you to enhance your outreach to non-endorsing States to expand the PSI globally.
I would now like to read a Statement from President Obama.
“I send greetings to all those participating in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Mid-Level Political Meeting.
Throughout history, America has held strong to the belief that if we come together as a community of nations, our world can achieve peace in our time and secure it for generations to come. A world where weapons of mass destruction (WMD) remain out of the wrong hands is a safer world for all. It will take patience and persistence to forge this future, but if we work in a spirit of common purpose, a day will come where everyone around the globe will live free from fear of these tools of destruction.
The threat of these weapons is all too real and calls on all of us to play our part. My Administration worked with partners to reach a historic deal with Iran, cutting off its path to nuclear weapons—a testament to what we can achieve when we work together. But there is work to be done, and the PSI remains at the heart of the efforts to achieve broader non-proliferation goals, constantly innovating to overcome new challenges and leading the international community in stopping WMD-related trafficking. We must make it a priority to strengthen organizations that work to address this critical issue and encourage others to join the fight.
As you recommit to ensuring the international non-proliferation regimes has the support it needs, I wish you all the best for a productive meeting.”
In conclusion, the United States is sincerely grateful for your participation and the strategic message that it sends about our collective commitment to, and continued leadership on, expanding the reach and effectiveness of the PSI.