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Goff: Cooperating for Non-Proliferation

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence
Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control

26 March 2007

Speech Notes

Cooperating for Non-Proliferation

Opening address of the Proliferation Security Initiative Operational Experts Group meeting, Auckland

Welcome to this first New Zealand meeting of the Operational Experts Group (OEG) of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

In the four years since the PSI was formed in Poland, the number of countries that officially support the initiative has grown significantly, to more than 80.

This support indicates the level of international concern that exists about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the degree to which the PSI responds to that concern.

New Zealand’s experience with the PSI has been positive.

Discussion at OEG meetings is useful and constructive. It has proven an effective environment for discussing complex issues such as jurisdiction, liability and prosecution, which are among the subjects you will be considering at this meeting.

The countries represented here today, and those in the larger grouping of PSI supporters, are widespread and diverse.

The common factor is a commitment to confronting proliferation as one of the major security threats of our time. Specifically, we are committed through the PSI to deterring or stopping the international transportation of these weapons, their components and delivery systems.

The PSI is an important addition to the global network of arrangements designed to combat the spread of WMD. New Zealand supports the initiative and urges other countries, particularly those in our region, to become actively involved.

For many years New Zealand has taken a strong international stand on disarmament, and on the need to limit the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We have consistently spoken out internationally against the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

We belong to the key non-proliferation treaties, including the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the four non-proliferation export control regimes.

Our domestic legislation is consistent with these international commitments, and our export control licensing system gives us clear and effective controls over New Zealand’s very small trade in strategic goods.

New Zealand supports the PSI because it provides a clear deterrent to WMD movements, and a means of preventing or stopping those movements if deterrence alone is not enough.

The PSI does this by using existing legal authorities. It does not allow countries to do anything outside of this framework. What it does is make the existing legal and operational tools work more effectively.

Often the public focus on the PSI has been on its provisions relating to “interdiction” – the searching and seizing of suspect cargoes under certain very specific conditions. But interdiction is just one part of an initiative that is ultimately about the development of strong links between countries in a common cause, and of creating or fine-tuning processes and machinery for putting that cooperation into effect.

The PSI has brought about a “network of cooperation” within and between participating countries. The impetus given to cooperation and information sharing by the PSI has been a significant achievement.

Since the inception of the PSI, national and international laws covering the interception of WMD during their transport by sea, air or land have become much better understood, and inter-country cooperation to prevent transport of WMD has been greatly enhanced.

Pre-PSI, if our countries had become aware of a ship carrying WMD components, it would have been quite unclear what to do about it.

Few countries would have felt confident enough of their information, their operational relationships with their own and foreign government agencies, their legal powers, or their operational capability to try to stop the voyage. Chances are, the ship would have travelled unhindered to its destination.

The PSI has addressed all these areas. It has required all its partner countries, including New Zealand, to look closely at their laws and consider how we might stop WMD or their components being taken from one country to another.

The initiative has also enabled the different agencies that protect national borders – in our case the armed forces, customs, police and foreign ministry, among others – to establish specialised links with each other.

In New Zealand, we have worked out detailed protocols and procedures for action if a WMD shipment is detected in our part of the world.

Government agencies have also been able to strengthen their relationships with parallel bodies in other PSI partner countries. If a ship heads towards New Zealand with WMD components on board, we are much more likely now than before PSI to find out about it.

This improved flow of information also applies to communication between governments and the private sector. In New Zealand, officials are now in closer contact than before with local traders and transport operators.

We have made sure businesses know what they need to do to ensure they do not inadvertently become involved in the movement of illegal cargos. They are now more likely to recognise ‘red flags’ – for example, inadequate information about end-uses or unusually favourable payment terms - that may signal a proliferation ambition.

In short, as a result of the PSI New Zealand has developed a full national response framework that allows us to respond quickly and decisively to WMD threats in our region.

The PSI also runs valuable desktop and “real world” exercises that allow New Zealand to ensure its national response framework works as intended and ties in effectively with those of other countries. In our region, New Zealand agencies have taken part in exercises in Singapore, Japan, and Australia - as well as tabletops here in New Zealand.

More exercises are planned for the future and these will be discussed here in Auckland.

Some might think that New Zealand, at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, has no need to be part of an arrangement like the PSI. That view would be wrong.

Weapons proliferators have sophisticated transport and financing networks, and New Zealand is a major trans-shipment point for cargo to and from the Pacific. As global security tightens, proliferators and terrorists seek out new and less obvious transport routes.

We cannot exclude New Zealand from being so targeted.

While there is currently no evidence of New Zealand having been used as a staging point for a WMD shipment, it is possible that someone could try to use us in this way.

Terrorism and terrorist states acknowledge no borders. They can strike to, or from, anywhere. Geographical remoteness from the main world trouble spots or population centres does not guarantee safety.

It makes sense for us to participate in the PSI to lessen these dangers.

Critics of the PSI maintain that its status at international law is ambiguous, that its membership is too limited, or that its functions should be carried out through an international organisation such as the United Nations.

I’d like to briefly consider each of these points.

First, all PSI participants are committed to ensuring that the provisions of the initiative are totally compatible with international law.

The PSI’s inaugural statement of principles spells this out. For our part, the New Zealand Government is entirely confident that the PSI is fully consistent with all the relevant international and domestic provisions.

We would not support the initiative unless this was the case. The PSI is a forum for fully using the existing legal frameworks at our disposal and for discussing areas where these might be improved and strengthened.

Such discussion has resulted, for instance, in the adoption of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea Protocols.

Second, the membership of the PSI does need to be larger. In New Zealand we are working with our Asia-Pacific PSI colleagues to ensure the initiative is as strong and as effective as possible in this part of the world. This will be the central purpose of the Asia-Pacific Outreach Forum we will host after this meeting.

We can be more effective still if other Asia Pacific countries join us. The more countries that are involved, the less the risk of any one of us unwittingly helping a proliferator. And the greater the shared benefits of the "network of cooperation" that I mentioned earlier.

As to the question of administering the PSI through the United Nations, New Zealand is a firm supporter of the UN. As a multilateral body it has a key role to play in helping ensure world peace and stability.

But it is not capable of undertaking every responsibility, or of moving always at the speed which might be required. The PSI has, however, been commended by the UN Secretary General for its role in combating proliferation of WMD.

Multilateral treaties can be complemented and reinforced by practical tools. The PSI was a creative and original idea. It needed to be developed and expanded quickly, and of course that is what has happened.

In conclusion, the PSI is a young initiative. It still needs to grow to reach its full potential. But in just four years it has become a critical component of global cooperation for non-proliferation.

New Zealand is committed to playing its part to ensure the PSI succeeds in its goals. I welcome you here today, and trust you will have a useful and productive meeting.

Thank you.


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