Biological Weapons Convention

The United States is a depository nation for the Biological Weapons and Toxin Convention that bans the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Treaty efforts at the annual Meeting of Experts and Meetings of States Parties, as well as pentannual review conferences have increasingly focused on disease surveillance capacity-building, assistance in the event of a suspicious outbreak or alleged use of biological weapons, biosafety, pathogen security, national implementation measures (including penal legislation), and issues related to “dual use” and the responsible conduct of the life sciences. Learn More about BWC»


Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA,” or “the Act”) (Pub. L. 115-44,) was enacted on August 2, 2017. The Act states that the President shall impose five or more of the sanctions described in Section 235 of the Act with respect to a person the President determines knowingly, on or after such date of enactment, engages in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation. The President delegated to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the authority to implement Section 231 on September 29, 2017. Learn More about CAATSA»

Export Control and Related Border Security Program

The Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program is the United States Government’s premier initiative to promote harmonization of national strategic trade control practices with international standards. The EXBS Program accomplishes this goal by engaging on bilateral, regional and multilateral levels with foreign governments to aid in the establishment of independent capabilities to regulate transfers of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), WMD-related items, conventional arms, and related dual-use items, and to detect, interdict, investigate, and prosecute illicit transfers of such items. The EXBS Program organizes a number of international events to bring national policymakers and technical experts together, including the International Conference on Export Controls, the Global Transshipment Seminar and the Proliferation Financing Conference. Learn More about EXBS»

Fighting Nuclear Terrorism

Fighting nuclear terrorism is a continuing national security priority. To learn about our programs go to the Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and the Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction. More information about our counter nuclear smuggling unit is also available on the WMDT office page.

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), co-chaired by the United States and the Russian Federation, is a voluntary partnership of 89 nations and six official international observer organizations that are committed to strengthening global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism. Partners have endorsed a set of core nuclear security principles across the full spectrum of nuclear terrorism deterrence, prevention, detection, and response objectives. To advance this mission, GICNT has conducted more than 100 multilateral activities, including technical experts meetings, scenario-based dialogues, workshops, seminars, tabletop and field exercises, which strengthen the plans, policies, procedures, and interoperability of partner nations. Learn More GICNT»

For more information about GICNT, please visit or email

Multilateral Export Control Regimes

  • Nuclear Suppliers Group
    • In June 2013, the Plenary in Prague, Czech Republic requested IAEA publication of changes to the Trigger List and Dual Use Control List following a three-year fundamental review of the Nuclear Suppliers Group control lists
    • In June 2012, the Plenary in Seattle, Washington, invited Mexico and Serbia to participate as observers and agreed that Mexico had completed all the necessary steps for consideration of membership and that the intersessional procedure should begin to confirm consensus. The Plenary endorsed the outgoing NSG Chair’s recommendations in support of a continued active outreach program with non-member states
    • In June 2011, the Plenary in Noordwijk, Netherlands approved new controls over transfers of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology
  • Wassenaar Arrangement
    • Plenary Meeting Approves Updated Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods, December 11, 2012, Vienna Austria

Nonproliferation Sanctions

The United States imposes sanctions under various legal authorities against foreign individuals, private entities, and governments that engage in proliferation activities, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Learn More about Nonproliferation Sanctions»

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was opened for signature July 1, 1968, and entered into force on March 5, 1970. The NPT comprises legally binding nonproliferation commitments and is the basis for international cooperation on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Learn More about Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty»

During 2010, the International Atomic Energy Agency established the Peaceful Uses Initiative to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The PUI supports implementation of Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires NPT States Parties that are in a position to do so to cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Nuclear-weapon-free zones are agreements intended to provide a legally binding framework to prohibit the use, possession, or deployment of nuclear weapons in a geographically defined zone. The international community has long considered the establishment of such zones an important disarmament measure and called for their establishment to be encouraged, with the ultimate objective of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Article VII of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons states, “Nothing in this Treaty affects the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.”

The United States has historically supported NWFZs on the grounds that, when properly crafted and fully implemented, they can contribute to international peace, security and stability. They can also reinforce the NPT and the world-wide nuclear nonproliferation regime. By signing and ratifying the relevant protocols to NWFZ treaties, the five nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT (the “P5”) give legally binding assurances to the states parties to these NWFZ treaties that they will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against them. These are called negative security assurances. The United States makes decisions on whether to sign these protocols on a case-by-case basis, based on the following criteria:

  • the initiative for the creation of the zone should come from the States in the region concerned;
  • all States whose participation is deemed important should participate;
  • the zone arrangement should provide for adequate verification of compliance with its provisions;
  • the establishment of the zone should not disturb existing security arrangements to the detriment of regional and international security or otherwise abridge the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense guaranteed in the Charter of the United Nations;
  • the zone arrangement should effectively prohibit its Parties from developing or otherwise possessing any nuclear device for whatever purpose;
  • the establishment of the zone should not affect the existing rights of its Parties under international law to grant or deny other States transit privileges within their respective land territory, internal waters, and airspace to nuclear powered and nuclear capable ships and aircraft of non-party nations, including port calls and overflights; and
  • the zone arrangement should not seek to impose restrictions on the exercise of rights recognized under international law, particularly the high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight, the right of innocent passage of territorial and archipelagic seas, the right of transit passage of international straits, and the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage of archipelagic waters.

The United States and other members of the UN Disarmament Commission in 1999 adopted by consensus guidelines for the establishment of NWFZs that the UN General Assembly later endorsed. There are currently five NWFZ treaties in force:

The United States has signed and ratified the relevant protocols to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the first agreement prohibiting nuclear weapons in a populated area. The Treaty celebrated the 50th anniversary of its opening for signature on February 14, 2017. Press Statement» DipNote»

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the United States announcedit would submit the Protocols to the Treaties of Pelindaba and Rarotonga, which the United States had already signed, to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. This was done in 2011. The United States was also prepared to consult with the parties to the Treaties of Bangkok and Semipalatinsk in an effort to reach agreement that would allow it to sign those treaties’ protocols. In 2014, the United States along with other members of the P5 signed the protocol to the Treaty of Semipalatinsk, and in 2015 the United States submitted the protocol to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. Consultations on issues related to the Treaty of Bangkok are ongoing.

Proliferation Security Initiative

Launched in Krakow, Poland in May 2003, the Proliferation Security Initiative is a global framework of states that commit to disrupt transfers of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related items to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. Not a formal organization, PSI states cooperate to prevent proliferation and strengthen national capacities for action. As of December 2015, 105 states from all regions have endorsed these principles and now participate in PSI. In January 2016, PSI endorsers met in Washington, D.C., for a preparatory meeting leading up to the group’s high-level conference in 2018. States discussed progress they have made in implementing their PSI commitments, including those made at the 2013 Tenth Anniversary High-Level Political Meeting. At this meeting, France announced it would host the 2018 High-Level Political Meeting. Learn More about Proliferation Security Initiative»

UN Security Council Resolution 1540

In April 2004, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1540, identifying the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery as a threat to international peace and security for the first time. The resolution legally obligates all member states to make and enforce effective measures against the proliferation of such weapons and their means of delivery to non-state actors, and to combat illicit use of related materials. These measures will significantly strengthen the international efforts to prevent terrorists and proliferation networks from gaining access to WMD.

For the first time, the United States has reported to the United Nations that it has comprehensive measures in place to implement all of its obligations as set forth in the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1540, which establishes legally binding obligations for member states regarding the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, delivery systems, and related materials. The UN has now published the report in its six official languages. U.S. implementation of Resolution 1540 reflects a “whole-of-government” approach; the report to the UN includes in-depth reporting on the updates to U.S. laws, regulations and policies, and it offers detailed data regarding the projects, initiatives and best practices the United States is using to protect the international community from non-state actors, including terrorist organizations that seek to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future