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Meeting the Nonproliferation Challenge

Ambassador Norman Wulf
Remarks to the Transshipment Enforcement Conference for Middle East States
Barcelona, Spain
May 20, 2002

It is a great pleasure for me to meet with you today. Many of you have traveled far to be here and we are grateful that you have taken the time and interest to participate in what we all hope will be a useful and enlightening set of discussions. I would like to extend my special appreciation and thanks to the Spanish Government for allowing us to hold this Conference in Barcelona. We have been eager to bring together representatives from the Middle East to talk about some of the more practical ways in which to improve national and regional security, and we are grateful to Spain, which is busy with all the duties that being President of the European Union entail, for helping make this a reality. I would also like to thank the representatives of member states of the European Union who have taken time out of their busy schedules to lend us the benefit of their expertise this week.

This Conference will allow us to consider how export controls fit into global nonproliferation efforts, but also to address challenges unique to the Middle East in the export control arena.


We are meeting at an important and opportune time. While nonproliferation has been on the global agenda for more than thirty years, we had not until last September witnessed such a stark and devastating example of why it is critical to put in place effective measures to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, and related technologies. What we have learned about the terrorists behind the attacks and their ambitions to acquire nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their missile delivery systems is truly chilling. But the resolve we have seen of the international community to do what it takes to prevent terrorists from acquiring such weapons is nothing less than inspiring.

President Bush has made clear that all civilized nations must unite to defend themselves against those who would pursue terror and lawless violence. And the international community is listening: in my career, including more than twenty years dedicated to nonproliferation efforts, I cannot recall an event that produced the urgency or global collegiality we are witnessing as countries set aside differences to work concretely together on finding solutions. We have taken action. We the international coalition, including all those represented here today: have frozen terrorist assets, exposed front groups, removed a terrorist regime, and foiled other terrorist plots. I want to thank you on behalf of the United States for your courage, your resolve, and your cooperation, without which the global community would not have achieved the success registered thus far in combating this malignant force. That said, our fight is far from over. The United States has vowed to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and security of its people; I am certain each of you also holds a similar vow for your own country. Together, we can successfully confront the menace that terrorism poses to international peace and security.

While the dangers from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, and advanced conventional weapons are growing, thankfully our ability to deal effectively with these threats is also improving, as nations around the world take stock of their commitments and capabilities and take appropriate steps to address concerns.

A Multilayered Approach

The nonproliferation regime that has evolved over the past thirty years is multilayered, comprised of global treaties, multilateral regimes, and national efforts. I will touch only briefly on the first two "layers." Other speakers will give more detailed presentations later in the agenda.

Global nonproliferation treaties and agreements, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT], the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC], and the Biological Weapons Convention [BWC] make up the first layer. The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, is today the most widely adhered to arms control treaty in history, and provides a vital contribution to peace and security by reducing the risk of nuclear war and preventing nuclear proliferation. Its provisions requiring IAEA safeguards on nuclear facilities, equipment, and materials provide a critical international verification tool to deter and detect would-be proliferators. The BWC, which entered into force in 1975, prevents the development, stockpiling, or acquisition of biological agents or toxins of types and in quantities that have no justification for peaceful purposes. And the CWC, which entered into force in 1997, bans chemical weapons and mandates the destruction of existing CW stockpiles. Taken together, these treaties, represent a strong line of global defense against development and acquisition of WMD [weapons of mass destruction].

These global treaties are supported by an equally important layer of multilateral export control regimes aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, their missile delivery systems, and related technology and equipment. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), founded in 1987, is the focal point of international efforts to curb the spread of missiles and missile technologies. The Australia Group (AG), founded in 1985 after the use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War, seeks to impede proliferators from acquiring chemical or biological weapon capabilities. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), created in 1975, implements guidelines for control of nuclear and nuclear-related exports. The Wassenaar Arrangement, created in 1994, governs international transfers of conventional weapons and related dual-use technologies. You will hear the term "dual-use" often during this week. What this term refers to is items and technologies that have legitimate civilian uses but also can be used to support WMD, missile, or other military weapons programs.

Taken together, these multilateral regimes seek to make it as difficult, costly, and time consuming as possible for proliferators to acquire weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities.

National Controls

A third, but no less critical nonproliferation layer, consists of national efforts, including domestic export controls. Many of the headlines surrounding the proliferation threat focus on countries trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Much of the real work, however, centers on countries adopting effective laws and regulations to control movement of sensitive goods and technologies, and weapons, from and through their territory and -- equally important -- developing the capability to enforce their laws and regulations.

There are many advantages for states to institute an effective export control system:

  • First, it provides control over national borders;
  • Second, it fosters a safer world for citizens of all countries;
  • Third, it cultivates economic cooperation -- economic activity and trade can be expected to increase if other countries have confidence that effective controls are in place and that goods are going to the end-users of record; and
  • Fourth, it promotes better international relationships, which can help foster achievement of broader foreign and security policy objectives.

The key technologies, equipment, and materials that could facilitate development of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems are identified by the international nonproliferation regimes, and we believe these items must be effectively controlled by every responsible nation. It is fair to say that, before September 11, nations that did not produce commodities of strategic concern were not seized with the need to monitor or control goods transiting their territories. The more usual refrain was, "It is the supplier countries' problem; it is not our concern." Today, it is accurate to say that many more countries recognize they have a duty to ensure that their territory is not used to violate the principles of the international nonproliferation regime. Put another way, there is a growing recognition that all countries benefit from curbing proliferation and must contribute to that effort by ensuring that their territory is not misused by those seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

The countries assembled here present a unique challenge to export control efforts because they host some of the busiest ports in the world. Some countries present here have adopted comprehensive export control legislation that is transparent to their business community, while giving national authorities powerful tools to ensure compliance. Other countries represented here still operate on the basis of executive decrees and regulations, but are taking steps to develop comprehensive legislation.

We would like to see all countries -- not just in the Middle East, but worldwide -- adopt export control laws that are consistent with international norms and put in place effective measures to implement and enforce these laws. I think we can agree that the best laws and the most comprehensive control lists have little meaning if governments lack the basic capability to control their borders or other key transshipment points. Political will is thus the most important factor in any national export control system; your attendance at this conference is a testament to the commitment of your respective governments have to nonproliferation and their desire to translate that commitment into concrete action, reform, and results.

U.S. Approaches to Export Controls and Enforcement

The United States continues to intensify its work to deny proliferators access to necessary equipment, materials, and technology and to constrain the transfer of advanced conventional weapons. We are working hard to enact a new, comprehensive Export Administration Act that would address the rapid pace of technological change in today's world and enhance our own export enforcement capabilities. We are expanding our efforts to assist other countries improve their own export control systems, through programs such as the Export Control Assistance Program about which you will hear more about during this Conference.

Over the course of this week, you will hear from senior officials and experts of various U.S. agencies on the importance of promoting effective but non-intrusive ways of controlling transshipment trade that reinforce nonproliferation goals without impeding legitimate commerce vital to your prosperity. The Department of State is in the forefront of efforts to develop coherent and comprehensive policy in both the nonproliferation and export control arenas. We coordinate the multifaceted export control assistance efforts of the government, and deal on a daily basis with governments around the world to help them tackle the problems and hurdles they face in trying to meet today's nonproliferation challenges. The State Department also leads efforts to deal with interdiction of sensitive technologies and materials, an effort that is growing in importance.

Other U.S. agencies represented here play an equally important role in our government's export control efforts and you will hear from many of them over the course of the next four days. The Department of Commerce will talk about the need for effective export control systems, laws, and regulations and discuss the legal foundations for controls on dual-use items and controls on conventional weapons. Commerce officials will also address key enforcement issues, such as analyzing and identifying items of concern and investigative techniques. The United States Customs Service will provide information on practical measures for securing cargo as it transits ports. Customs officials will also discuss targeting techniques for detecting shipments of concern, random searches, and the new U.S. Container Security Initiative. A representative from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is here to discuss threats from and responses to transshipment of weapons of mass destruction. And U.S. Department of Energy officials will focus on analyzing and identifying commodities of concern. There will also be a discussion of the transshipment enforcement process and sophisticated equipment that can be used to help in inspection and detection efforts. Finally, post-detection responses to illegal shipments will be addressed, including penalties and prosecution. We may also hear from other countries represented here on these and other related topics, and we welcome such participation.


In conclusion, I would stress that export controls form a key component of our common struggle against proliferation and terrorism. Success in this critical effort requires not only a strong global nonproliferation architecture, but strenuous national efforts as well. Sensitive dual-use commodities simply cannot be controlled effectively unless there is a broad consensus to do so and cooperation among exporting and transit countries. Without such a meeting of the minds, those who seek sensitive technology, equipment, or materials for WMD or missiles will continue to make progress -- for the chain of control is only as strong as its weakest link. And unless we can reliably prevent the unauthorized transfer of potentially dangerous and destructive capabilities to hostile parties, we may all pay the price.

A hard reality is that, so long as there are would-be proliferators or groups seeking WMD, there will always be more that can be done. But the good news is that every effort made to improve controls over sensitive technologies, no matter how small, makes it harder for states to acquire WMD; it makes it more time consuming and it makes it more costly -- both financially and politically. What we hope is that proliferators will ultimately decide that the price of getting WMD is not worth it or that political changes occur that affect their motivations and lead them to become fully compliant members of nonproliferation regimes.

Our discussions this week are aimed at helping your governments increase their understanding of and contributions to the ever-tightening global web of control against proliferation of WMD by both state and sub-state proliferators. Your efforts in this regard will be important to helping achieve a more safe and secure world.

Thank you.

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