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UNSC Resolution 1540: The U.S. Perspective

UN Security Council Resolution 1540: The U.S. Perspective

Andrew Semmel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear
Remarks at Conference on Global Nonproliferation and Counterterrorism: United
Nations Security Council Resolution 1540
Chatham House, London, England
October 12, 2004

Thank you very much.

It is a genuine pleasure to be here among such distinguished panelists and guests. I very much regret that I was unable to be here yesterday to participate in the full conference agenda. Let me first thank Chatham House for organizing this timely and focused look at ways to strengthen international efforts to prevent state and non-state actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540) is the latest in a series of internationally-directed, concrete measures aimed at preventing WMD proliferation and, most particularly, preventing and countering terrorist acquisition and use of these deadly weapons.

As the original sponsor of UNSCR 1540, the United States took a leading role in the international community in developing and adding this tool to our collective "toolbox" of measures to prevent proliferation. My remarks today offer a look back at the conditions prompting the call for UNSCR 1540 and our priorities in negotiating the resolution. I will also look forward at how the United States hopes Resolution 1540 will contribute to more effective and more robust responses to terrorist efforts to acquire WMD.

A Layered Nonproliferation Defense

Over the years, while working with others, we have built a complex nonproliferation regime to deal with diverse proliferation threats. With each "layer" or initiative added, the regime has sought to adapt to new challenges presented by advances in technology, evolving security dynamics, and other events. The first line of nonproliferation defense are the global nonproliferation treaties--the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention, and Biological Weapons Convention. They have served us well for decades by creating widely-accepted norms against WMD acquisition, stockpiling, and proliferation and they continue to advance dialogue and cooperation among nations. However, we have learned hard lessons with North Korea, Libya, Iraq, and Iran. These treaties have established strong global norms, but their ability to prevent WMD acquisition is only as strong as States Parties' willingness to comply with their treaty-based obligations and the resolve of compliant parties to hold others to their obligations.

The multilateral export control regimes--the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Zangger Committee, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement--are a second, important layer of our nonproliferation defense. Each of these export control regimes plays a critical role in identifying key WMD and missile-related material, technology and appropriate approaches to control access to such items. In the case of the Zangger, NSG, and Australia Group, these limited membership export control regimes have given greater specificity to items of concern under the NPT and CWC and have broadened the materials or technologies controlled. However, recent experience--such as the clandestine A.Q. Khan nuclear trafficking network--make clear that having strong supplier state commitments and solid control lists do not automatically translate into prevention of illicit exports. Proliferators have adapted and often stayed one step ahead of preventors and prevention. We, too, must adapt and stay one step ahead of them. Proliferators have become adept at circumventing export controls through falsification of end use information, end user documentation, or cargo manifests; illicit suppliers and shippers collude and use transport routes and transshipment points in countries that lack strong controls and enforcement mechanisms.

In addition to nonproliferation treaties and regimes, the United States and other countries have engaged in a variety of ad hoc bilateral dialogues, partnerships with key like-minded states, and other measures to enhance national controls over sensitive technologies and to reduce, secure, or eliminate sources of sensitive materials and technology. While seeking positive solutions, we have not shied away from use of sanctions and other punitive measures to achieve nonproliferation goals.

In general, this "layered nonproliferation defense" has worked well, where implemented, to impede and slow efforts of state and non-state actors to acquire WMD. But progress has been spotty and even frustrating, since not all states are willing or able to take seriously the appeal for stronger nonproliferation measures. Though countries can agree generally on the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction, rarely can they agree on concrete responses.

In the wake of 9/11, global nonproliferation took on increased urgency spurred by the tangible information gathered in the tragedy's aftermath about the ambitions of terrorists and terrorist organizations to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. This clear nexus of terrorists seeking WMD created an imperative to evaluate whether existing tools were sufficient to address the growing threat.

Over the three years since 9/11, the United States has looked through fresh eyes at the nonproliferation "toolbox." After a frank review, we assessed that the nonproliferation architecture assembled over the past three decades needed to be reinforced and fortified by new measures. We did not identify any "quick fixes" or simple solutions for this threat. We recognized starkly that, when it comes to the WMD threat and its correlation with terrorism, time is not on our side. We simply did not believe that we had the luxury of our predecessors for negotiation crossing many months or years to arrive at a solution to this danger.

Against this backdrop, President Bush in the fall of 2003 called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt an anti-proliferation resolution. He urged that it require states to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials; to enact and enforce strict export controls; and to secure sensitive material within their borders. In February of this year, in the wake of revelations about the A.Q. Khan network, President Bush reissued this call in a speech at the U.S. National Defense University. He also outlined a number of additional proposals to strengthen nonproliferation efforts--seven in all. Intersecting with this focus on terrorism was a growing awareness of the Khan network. Companies within countries were building specialized components for exports to countries seeking nuclear weapons. In specific cases, the government was not aware of the company's activities nor did it have controls in place that would enable it to halt the exports.

Building UNSCR 1540

UN Security Council Resolution 1540 is rooted in the Security Council's groundbreaking 1992 Presidential Statement. That statement constituted the Council's first recognition that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to international peace and security.

Resolution 1540 builds on UN Security Council Resolution 1373. Passed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, resolution 1373 requires states to put in place measures to ensure their banks do not finance terrorist activities, they do not allow terrorist travel, and their territories do not support training for a next terrorist attack. UNSCR 1373 foreshadowed 1540, in that it highlighted the importance of controlling the flow of critical technologies across borders. Resolution 1540 takes this call to a new level, requiring that states establish and enforce legal barriers to acquisition of WMD whether by terrorists or by states.

The crux of UNSCR 1540 requires states to ensure that they have the infrastructure in place to address the threat posed by non-state actor involvement in any aspect of WMD proliferation. It decides that states shall not support non-state actors involved in such activities and that states shall enact and enforce the necessary laws to prevent these activities on their territories. It requires states to monitor and control sensitive technologies, materials, and equipment that exist in, are manufactured by, or transit their territories. The aim is to prevent terrorists from acquiring them, but also, as we saw with A.Q. Khan, to prevent non-state actor involvement in trafficking of materials, equipment and technology, as well as transshipment and financing.

Ensuring that states adopt effective controls and enforcement over sensitive items is not a new endeavor. The United States and many other countries have been trumpeting the importance of strong and effective laws and enforcement measures for many years in a variety of settings. Significant strides have been made in elevating awareness about the importance of strong controls and in taking decisive action to put in place measures that keep deadly technologies out of the wrong hands. Yet a clear gap remained between the global consensus about the threat of WMD proliferation and concrete action on the ground. If I may use a baseball metaphor, there has been much wind-up but not much pitch and very little follow-through.

While not a proliferation panacea, UNSCR 1540 helps close this gap--more pitch and follow through. It makes strong national controls and enforcement a requirement rather than an option. Rather than engaging in protracted, multiyear treaty negotiations, the Security Council responded relatively quickly to lay out some basic requirements to address the threat to international peace and security posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is a necessary requirement, because terrorists or those that sponsor them exploit opportunities where they exist. Prevention is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Proliferators, like those involved in the Khan network, have shown their cunning in using not the quickest or most cost-effective routes to ply their dangerous trade, but in seeking the path of least resistance. UNSCR 1540 seeks to meet proliferators' lethal flexibility with the firm resolve of states to cut off the path to proliferation. It places a premium on establishment of legal and regulatory measures at the national level. It seeks to build capacity from the bottom up rather than attempting to impose it from above.

During the negotiation of UNSCR 1540, the United States worked hard to maintain a high standard of accountability in what the resolution requires. Our aim was not to burden countries with additional obligations; we acted from the awareness that lax controls over WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials could be catastrophic for all. The structuring of the resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter reflects this sober reality. The United States wanted the resolution to address the WMD threat in as comprehensive a manner as possible and to reinforce existing nonproliferation treaties and regimes. Though the preoccupation of many nations on terrorist acquisition of WMD is reflected in the resolution's text, the resolution maintains a broader thrust that WMD proliferation writ large should be stopped.

Resolution 1540 also reflects the steady progression of national and international efforts to define and address the challenge of WMD terrorism in the post 9/11 environment. Virtually every multilateral body and regional organization that deals with nonproliferation or terrorism has examined this issue since 9/11. Numerous course corrections have been adopted. The multilateral nonproliferation regimes have reviewed their control lists to identify and restrict supply of items of use to terrorists or terrorist organizations. The International Atomic Energy Agency's Illicit Trafficking Database Program has new relevance as we look for connections between smugglers with nuclear or radioactive material and terrorists, and the Agency has developed innovative approaches to help member states account for and secure nuclear and radiological materials.

New initiatives have been launched, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), one of the most successful counterproliferation initiatives in recent memory. The PSI brings together countries in partnership to defeat the trafficking of deadly weapons and technologies involving state or non-state actors of proliferation concern. The PSI and 1540 are complementary. Paragraph ten of the resolution reflects this symbiosis. The October 2003 seizure of the BBC China traveling to Libya with a cargo hold full of centrifuges is a dramatic example of cooperative action to prevent WMD proliferation, which 1540 promotes as both necessary and essential.

Many states worked to shape resolution 1540's emphasis on proliferation as a serious threat to peace and security that requires concerted action of all responsible states. States need to have the necessary legal and regulatory infrastructure in place and they need to enforce it. 1540 also reflects the growing consensus that cooperation among states is not only useful, but is essential to preventing proliferation. This is particularly important in preventing illicit trafficking in WMD, an area of cooperation that is embodied by the PSI. The consensus adoption of UNSCR 1540 in April signals an important recognition that every nation has a responsibility in this endeavor and must redouble their efforts to ensure that terrorists do not succeed in their deadly quest. It reaffirms the truism that since all states have a stake in combating use of weapons of mass destruction, all states should play a part in preventing their acquisition.

Looking Forward--Implementation of 1540

Resolution 1540 is the result of a tedious, sometimes contentious, but ultimately successful negotiation among many countries, and consensus agreement on a way forward. It preserves the core priority articulated by President Bush: the international community needs to take concrete action; states must put in place effective controls and enforcement so that non-state actors will not acquire deadly technologies that they would then turn on civilized nations. We are determined to work closely with other countries to ensure they establish effective national controls and enforcement measures.

We also expect that states will take seriously paragraph four of the resolution and submit comprehensive reports to the 1540 Committee on their efforts to comply with the resolution's operative elements. These reports will be an important tool in understanding the scope of the challenge before us and how best it can be addressed. We live in an era of global economies and growing interdependence. No state will remain unaffected by WMD proliferation; none of us is stronger than the weakest link. It is in all our interests to be a frank and open about our capabilities to respond to proliferation threats. Each states' critical review of its own laws and regulations will help locate gaps. This process may facilitate an understanding of "best practices" by countries. The Nonproliferation Committee's review of these reports will help match assistance with the needs of member states. As President Bush has noted, the United States is prepared to assist where it can.

The United States has compiled a Report that provides a comprehensive accounting on the range of U.S. laws, programs, and initiatives to address proliferation. A multi-agency effort, our report provides detailed information on U.S. efforts to implement the resolution. The report also includes detailed reporting on our efforts to assist other states, support existing nonproliferation treaties, and establish cooperation among states to prevent illicit trafficking. These are key aspects of 1540 that ought not be overlooked. The U.S. report is a snapshot in time--albeit a long one at 62 pages in length--but offers a valuable resource for those interested in knowing how the United States Government has approached this particular problem. We are scheduled to submit our report to the 1540 Committee in New York today.

The Nonproliferation Committee in New York is working to assemble a panel of experts to review country reports. Though 1540 has been structured under Chapter VII, we do not envision "enforcement" as a role for the Committee. We believe that there is strong international support for this resolution and that states will comply with 1540's provisions without the need for Council action. If asked, the United States will work with states on a bilateral basis, or in partnership with other states, to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities under 1540. This includes identifying what countries require assistance and how best that assistance can be provided. We of course will revisit this view if it becomes evident that countries are not taking their 1540 obligations seriously or are ignoring their responsibility to put in place the legal and regulatory infrastructure required under the resolution.


Let me conclude by saying that the clear intent of terrorists and terrorist organizations to acquire WMD and their known disregard for innocent lives adds great urgency to an already grave security imperative. The international community cannot rest on its nonproliferation laurels. It must be as creative, agile, and aggressive in preventing proliferation as the proliferators themselves--whether state or non-state actors--are about acquiring WMD. This is a race we cannot afford to lose. Preferably, our game plan should be multilateral, multinational, multiyear, and multidimensional. It should include diplomacy, law enforcement, economic incentives and disincentives, border security measures, and where necessary the use of force. It should run the full gamut of persuasion and coercion, as appropriate. It should flexible and adaptive.

No one state nor any single approach can solve this global problem. To the contrary, a single state supplying critical materials or technologies could defeat the efforts of us all. Success requires collaboration, a long-term commitment, clear-eyed vigilance, a multiplicity of tools, as well as a serious commitment to defeat this modern scourge. There must be commitment but there must also be follow-through in the form of enforcement. There may yet be time to prevent terrorists and those who sponsor them from acquiring deadly capabilities. We strenuously hope this is the case. We look forward to working with other countries in implementing the resolution and building a stronger, tighter, and more effective set of nonproliferation tools to keep the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous individuals.

Thank you very much.


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