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Proactive approach on WMD knowledge acquisition

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control


9 May 2006
Media statement

Proactive approach on WMD knowledge acquisition


Discussions between government officials and universities on the risk of misuse of research on developing weapons of mass destruction are neither secret nor do they involve spying on anyone, says Disarmament Minister Phil Goff.

"Officials from Foreign Affairs, the SIS, and the Department of Labour are in the process of talking to universities to raise their awareness that there is a small potential risk of knowledge acquisition that could contribute directly or indirectly to the spread of weapons of mass destruction," Mr Goff said.

"The visits do not reflect specific concerns about particular institutions or individuals. It is a proactive initiative to ensure that we and the universities are aware of any work that might be done here that could be inadvertently contributing to developing expertise and knowledge related to chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

"There is a small risk that non-state actors, as much as countries, could seek to develop that knowledge by sponsoring students, and we need to adopt some precautionary measures to prevent that from happening here.

"Groups like al Qaeda have publicly expressed the ambition to develop nuclear and other weapons. We need to ensure they do not get the knowledge about weapons or delivery systems, or the materials to achieve that outcome.

"The potential for universities to be misused is an international issue, and our discussions match what is being done in like-minded countries around the world.

"The dialogue supplements the more traditional leadership role New Zealand plays in the area of non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as the checks we have to prevent export of materials that pose a threat to security elsewhere.

"We have a comprehensive programme to promote disarmament and to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That includes traditional avenues such as the Non Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, support for all UN WMD conventions, activities under the G8 Global Partnership to dismantle chemical and nuclear weapons and dispose of materials, the Proliferation Security Initiative, and export controls on arms and dual-use goods.

"Preventing the spread of knowledge that might contribute to weapons of mass destruction is simply and extension of this," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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