It is my great pleasure to chair this second session, “Addressing a Changing International Security Environment and Challenges to Nonproliferation.” I would like to thank our hosts for choosing to include this topic given its critical importance to all Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) endorsing nations.
As our Republic of Korea (ROK) colleagues noted in the previous session, we have made great strides in the Initiative’s 20-year history to strengthen the global community’s commitment and ability to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation. We should be rightfully proud of that record.
The task before us today is to ensure that the PSI continues to build upon its existing lines of effort while adapting to a rapidly changing strategic and technological environment. I would like to address both of those dimensions of change.
In the strategic realm, the Initiative faces a growing array of threats including long-standing trends that have worsened over time, along with new and emerging challenges. As we gather today in Jeju Island, we cannot help but be reminded of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) advancing, unlawful nuclear and missile programs. A worrying trend that is encouraged when countries like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia do not enforce existing United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions designed to stop this proliferation. In the Middle East, Iran’s uranium enrichment is inconsistent with its obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards agreement while its development of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) delivery systems destabilizes the region. Iran’s growing military relationship with Russia further threatens Europe and contributes to Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine.
The PRC’s military-civil fusion strategy has blurred the distinction between military and civilian end-users, undermining the proper functioning of export controls, which are critical tools for stopping the proliferation of WMD and delivery systems. The PRC also seeks to undermine the multilateral export control regimes by pushing its “Peaceful Uses” resolution at the UN, which falsely asserts that the regimes place “undue restrictions” on developing countries’ access to technology.
Russia continues its efforts to undermine the global nonproliferation architecture. It seeks to import arms from the DPRK and has acquired hundreds of UAVs from Iran, both actions devastating to Ukraine’s civilians and infrastructure and in direct contravention of their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions. In launching its unjust and unprovoked war in Ukraine, Russia has threatened the use of nuclear weapons, while creating unprecedented safety and security risks at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. Russia has blocked the progress of multilateral export control regimes and suspended its participation in New START, showing its disregard for the nonproliferation community. Russia is also backing the Assad regime in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its own people.
These situations illustrate the challenges facing international efforts to limit proliferation and use of WMD. These are not a single country’s problem, or only a regional issue. The impact of these threats spans the globe.
The challenges brought about by technological advances are equally compelling. New and emerging critical technologies challenge states’ abilities to understand, harness, and regulate them. The list is familiar to many of us – quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, advanced semiconductors, additive manufacturing, and a host of other technologies offer both promise and peril to our world. They are developing quickly, and both national legislation and multilateral export control regimes need to change to respond to these advances. It will take all of us to help define national controls and uphold international standards that allow for technological development, free market enterprise, and the understanding that with such development comes the responsibility to protect international security. Today, the United States calls for all PSI-endorsing states to undertake dedicated efforts to ensure that the PSI adapts and evolves its activities to account for the potential threat applicability of these technologies.
It is crucial that the international community come together to strengthen global norms against WMD proliferation and tackle the dual-use challenges of critical and emerging technologies. We must continue to build trust and improve communication with partner States and international organizations, but also increase our engagement with private industry, academia, and nongovernmental organizations.
Therefore, the United States is proud to announce that we will continue our support for and participation in PSI. The United States will continue its robust efforts to build partnership capacity in nonproliferation through PSI and other capacity-building efforts that enable states to meet their UNSCR 1540 implementation requirements. We will lead an effort to increase the signatories and ratifiers of the Suppression of Unlawful Act Protocols and the Beijing convention. We will offer our help and our expertise to further expand the establishment of annual, regional exercise rotations in key areas of the world. The Asia Pacific Exercise Rotation, or APER, has proven hugely successful in developing regional partnerships, as we will see tomorrow during the LIVEX. We should look to replicate that effort in other regions such as the Western Hemisphere, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf States, while holding consistent regional exercise rotations that demonstrate our collective political will to curb threats from WMD proliferators.
The United States will also expand its PSI outreach in 2024 to the countries of Africa who are underrepresented in the Initiative. Our efforts, in conjunction with our regional PSI partners, such as Morocco, will inform and encourage new states to endorse and participate in PSI.
Finally, the United States fully supports the Joint Statement of the 20th HLPM. We stand firmly with those who honor their international obligations and seek to strengthen the global norms against the proliferation of WMD, delivery systems, and related materials.