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Proliferation Security Initiative

On May 31, 2003 at a speech given just prior to the G8 summit President Bush announced the establishment of the Proliferation Security Initiative which would result in the creation of international agreements and partnerships that would allow the US and its allies to search planes and ships carrying suspect cargo and seize illegal weapons or missile technologies.

Under Part VII of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ships owned or operated by a State and used only on government non-commercial service shall, on the high seas, have complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any State other than the flag State. Except where acts of interference derive from powers conferred by treaty, a warship which encounters a foreign merchant ship on the high seas is not justified in boarding her unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that the ship is engaged in piracy; or that the ship is engaged in the slave trade; or that the ship is engaged in unauthorized broadcasting. The International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties was drafted in 1969 and allows a coastal nation to take defensive action against a vessel on the high seas where pollution by oil is threatened.

The Proliferation Security Initiative reflects the need for a more dynamic, active approach to the global proliferation problem. It envisions partnerships of states working in concert, employing their national capabilities to develop a broad range of legal, diplomatic, economic, military and other tools to interdict threatening shipments of WMD and missile-related equipment and technologies.

The Proliferation Security Initiative is a response to the growing challenge posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials worldwide. The PSI builds on efforts by the international community to prevent proliferation of such items, including existing treaties and regimes. It is consistent with and a step in the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement of January 1992, which states that the proliferation of all WMD constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and underlines the need for member states of the U.N. to prevent proliferation. The PSI is also consistent with recent statements of the G-8 and the European Union, establishing that more coherent and concerted efforts are needed to prevent the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials. PSI participants are deeply concerned about this threat and of the danger that these items could fall into the hands of terrorists, and are committed to working together to stop the flow of these items to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern.

The PSI seeks to involve in some capacity all states that have a stake in nonproliferation and the ability and willingness to take steps to stop the flow of such items at sea, in the air, or on land. The PSI also seeks cooperation from any state whose vessels, flags, ports, territorial waters, airspace, or land might be used for proliferation purposes by states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. The increasingly aggressive efforts by proliferators to stand outside or to circumvent existing nonproliferation norms, and to profit from such trade, requires new and stronger actions by the international community.

A statement of interdiction principles was released in Paris September 4, 2003 by eleven nations that are participating in the Proliferation Security Initiative.

PSI participants are committed to the following interdiction principles to establish a more coordinated and effective basis through which to impede and stop shipments of WMD, delivery systems, and related materials flowing to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern, consistent with national legal authorities and relevant international law and frameworks, including the United Nations Security Council. They call on all states concerned with this threat to international peace and security to join in similarly committing to:

1) Undertake effective measures, either alone or in concert with other states, for interdicting the transfer or transport of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. "States or non-state actors of proliferation concern" generally refers to those countries or entities that the PSI participants involved establish should be subject to interdiction activities because they are engaged in proliferation through: (1) efforts to develop or acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems; or (2) transfers (either selling, receiving, or facilitating) of WMD, their delivery systems, or related materials.

2) Adopt streamlined procedures for rapid exchange of relevant information concerning suspected proliferation activity, protecting the confidential character of classified information provided by other states as part of this initiative, dedicate appropriate resources and efforts to interdiction operations and capabilities, and maximize coordination among participants in interdiction efforts.

3) Review and work to strengthen their relevant national legal authorities where necessary to accomplish these objectives, and work to strengthen when necessary relevant international laws and frameworks in appropriate ways to support these commitments.

4) Take specific actions in support of interdiction efforts regarding cargoes of WMD, their delivery systems, or related materials, to the extent their national legal authorities permit and consistent with their obligations under international law and frameworks, to include:

a) Not to transport or assist in the transport of any such cargoes to or from states or non-state actors of proliferation concern, and not to allow any persons subject to their jurisdiction to do so.

b) At their own initiative, or at the request and good cause shown by another state, to take action to board and search any vessel flying their flag in their internal waters or territorial seas, or areas beyond the territorial seas of any other state, that is reasonably suspected of transporting such cargoes to or from states or non-state actors of proliferation concerns, and to seize such cargoes that are identified.

c) To seriously consider providing consent under the appropriate circumstances to the boarding and searching of its own flag vessels by other states, and to the seizure of such WMD-related cargoes in such vessels that may be identified by such states.

d) To take appropriate actions to (1) stop and/or search in their internal waters, territorial seas, or contiguous zones (when declared) vessels that are reasonably suspected of carrying such cargoes to or from states or non-state actors of proliferation concern and to seize such cargoes that are identified; and (2) enforce conditions on vessels entering or leaving their ports, internal waters, or territorial seas that are reasonably suspected of carrying such cargoes, such as requiring that such vessels be subject to boarding, search, and seizure of such cargoes prior to entry.

e) At their own initiative or upon the request and good cause shown by another state, to (a) require aircraft that are reasonably suspected of carrying such cargoes to or from states or non-state actors of proliferation concern and that are transiting their airspace to land for inspection and seize any such cargoes that are identified; and/or (b) deny aircraft reasonably suspected of carrying such cargoes transit rights through their airspace in advance of such flights.

f) If their ports, airfields, or other facilities are used as transshipment points for shipment of such cargoes to or from states or non-state actors of proliferation concern, to inspect vessels, aircraft, or other modes of transport reasonably suspected of carrying such cargoes, and to seize such cargoes that are identified.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer confirmed in parliament that the meeting had agreed on "new and imaginative measures" that would include "the searching of transport planes and vessels and tightening of relevant domestic and international law. ... We are looking at practical cooperation with key countries to deny North Korea access or further access to weapons of mass destruction material and to deny access to markets as well," he said.

To jump-start this initiative, the US began working with several close allies to expand its ability to stop and seize suspected WMD transfers. Over time, the US will extend this partnership as broadly as possible to keep the world's most destructive weapons away from its shores and out of the hands of its enemies. The US aims ultimately not just to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, but also to eliminate or roll back such weapons from rogue states and terrorist groups that already possess them or are close to doing so.

On June 4, 2003, during testimony before Congress, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton announced that the United States had, within the previous two months, intercepted aluminum tubes likely bound for North Korea's nuclear weapons program and a French and German combined effort had intercepted sodium cyanide likely bound for North Korea's chemical weapons program are examples of recent interdiction successes.

Subsequent statements from the Administration indicated that their would be few announcements regarding seizures and boardings. Not disclosing the existence of these operations minimizes controversy and maximizes flexibility as the US and its allies would be free of public pressure.

In June 2003, Japan changed its policy in regard to the ferries operating from North Korea. Nearly 2,000 inspectors went to the port of Niigata to check for customs and immigration violations, infectious diseases, and safety violations on the North Korean vessel Man Gyong Bong-92. North Korea responded by immediately ceasing all ferries traveling between the two countries and cancelled a port visit by an unnamed vessel believed to be involved in espionage. The Japanese policy appears to be part of a large US strategy to involve regional actors in policing North Korean exports.

The Japanese Transport Minister, Chikage Ogi, stated that Japan intends to inspect all North Korean vessels at ports in Japan. On June 11 the 298 ton freighter Namsan 3 was detained at Maizuru and at the Otaru port in Hokkaido the 178-ton Daehungrason-2, carrying crabs, was also detained.

This shift in policy comes as the United States has withdrawn several dozen fighters and bombers from South Korea and Guam, including F-117s, B-52s, B-1Bs and F-15Es, indicating that the administration opted to not pursue air strikes.

On June 15, 2003 eleven nations agreed on a version of the Proliferation Security Initiative, called the Madrid Initiative for the city where the agreement was reached. The Madrid Initiative was endorsed by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Australia. The iniative proposed strategies for intercepting cargos suspected of containing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or missile components. The US has announced an increase in surveillance in the area in addition to increased interdiction by Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

On June 17, 2003 at the ASEAN meeting at Phnom Penh, Cambodia Secretary of State Colin Powell promoted the concepts of the Madrid Initiative arguing that North Korean trafficking of narcotics and other illicit materials must be curbed. The ASEAN Regional Forum released a joint-statement that highlighted the problems associated with maritime smuggling, though the statement did not specifically mention North Korea or WMD it is thought that North Korea is a target of the initiative.

In response to the policy initiative the DPRK released a statement threatening violent action and an escalation in the crisis between it and the United States if it felt that the blockade was going to far or infringed upon North Korea's sovereignty.

The participants in the Proliferation Security Initiative meeting in Brisbane, Australia on 9-10 July 2003 reiterated their strong political support for the initiative, and underscored that the PSI is a global initiative with global reach. They agreed to move quickly on direct, practical measures to impede the trafficking in weapons of mass destruction (WMD), missiles and related items. This was the second meeting of the eleven PSI countries. The first meeting was in Madrid on 12 June. Participants are Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the US.

Under Australian chairmanship, the Brisbane meeting built on the results from the Madrid meeting and moved forward in translating the collective political commitment of PSI members into practical measures.

The Brisbane meeting focused on defining actions necessary to collectively or individually interdict shipments of WMD or missiles and related items at sea, in the air or on land. Participants emphasised their willingness to take robust and creative steps now to prevent trafficking in such items, while reiterating that actions taken would be consistent with existing domestic and international legal frameworks.

The Brisbane meeting made good progress in considering interdiction modalities, particularly in the information sharing and operational arenas. Participants emphasised that effective information sharing is vital to interdiction, and agreed to strengthen and improve capabilities for the exchange of information and analysis between participants as a basis for cooperative action to impede WMD and missile trade. Participants acknowledged that although interdiction efforts have been under way for some time, there is a need to further develop and enhance the capabilities of PSI nations to conduct actual air, ground and maritime interdiction operations in partnership against WMD and delivery systems. To that end, they agreed in principle to the concept of a series of interdiction training exercises, utilising both military and civilian assets as appropriate, and that such exercises should take place as soon as practicable.

Participants agreed on the importance of building a broad and effective partnership of countries prepared to play a part in disrupting and stopping the trafficking in WMD, missiles and related items. They agreed effective implementation of the PSI will require the active involvement of countries around the world. As the PSI moves forward, they aim to involve all countries that have the will and ability to take action to address this menace. It also will be crucial to involve countries that are key flag, coastal or transit states, and others that are used by proliferators in their WMD and missile trafficking efforts.

Participants underlined that the spread of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and related materials and equipment is a serious threat to national, regional and global security. Participants expressed concern that WMD and missiles are increasingly being acquired by states of concern which reject international standards against the acquisition, use and proliferation of such weapons.

PSI participants considered the question of states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. They referred to the relevant statements of the G-8 Evian summit on 1-3 June and the EU-US Joint Statement on the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction of 25 June which addressed countries of proliferation concern and non-state actors with particular reference to North Korea and Iran.

The Brisbane meeting strongly supported the strengthening of the existing framework of national laws and export controls, multilateral treaties and other tools which remain the international community's main means for preventing the spread of WMD and missiles. They emphasised that the increasingly aggressive and sophisticated efforts by proliferators to circumvent or thwart existing non-proliferation norms, and to profit from the trade of WMD and missiles or related items, requires new and stronger enforcement action by law-abiding nations. The PSI was therefore welcomed as a necessary and innovative approach to the problem of countries which cheat on their international obligations, refuse to join existing regimes or do not follow international norms, and for non-state actors seeking to acquire WMD.

Participants acknowledged that the PSI is a fast-track initiative that will require continued interaction among experts and policy makers in the days and weeks ahead, and agreed to a next high-level meeting in early September.

On July 23, 2003 a USA Today report indicated that the United States had reached an agreement with Japan, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Spain to intercept North Korean ships suspected of carrying narcotics or weapons materials.

On August 08, 2003 the North Korean cargo vessel Be Gaehung was detained at Kaohsiung Harbor in Taiwan after US intelligence notified the Taiwanese government that the vessel was suspected of carrying chemicals associated with rocket fuel, according to the Christian Science Monitor on August 12, 2003. The ship was boarded and inspected and the captain was asked to unload the chemicals on Sunday August 10. The vessel began unloading some 158 barrels of phosphorus pentasulfide which were then confiscated by government officials. Speculation contends that the decision to unload the chemicals and to comply with demands is an indication that prior to the six-party talks, North Korea is pursuing a softer-line.

On August 18, 2003 stories in the New York Times and in the International Herald Tribune indicated that a multinational naval exercise would occur in the Coral Sea in Septmber 2003 and would focus on the interdiction of WMD and related materials. The Proliferation Security Intitiative interdiction training exercise is planned to follow another exercise, Crocodile 2003. The training exercises are intended to enhance the collective capabilities of participants to conduct actual sea, air and ground interdiction operations in cooperation and partnership. It will involve both civilian law enforcement and military assets and all the core countries of the initiative are expected to participated in some way. This exercise was identified by the Washington Times on September 5, 2003 as Pacific Protector. A State Department release indicated that Pacific Protector would be the first of 10 planned exercises and that it would begin on September 13-14, 2003.


Six exercises are planned for the first half of 2004 that will be planned around realistic and topical scenarios. They include an Italian-led air interception exercise in the Mediterranean, an Italian-led maritime interdiction exercise in Mediterranean, a German-led customs exercise, a Polish-led ground interdiction exercise and a French-led simulated air interdiction exercise.

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