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The UNSCR 1540 Committee Visit to the U.S.: How the U.S. Combats WMD Terrorism

Simon Limage
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs , Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation

Ruvarna Naidoo, Acting Spokesperson for the UNSCR 1540 Committee Chairman
Washington, DC
September 15, 2011

Date: 09/15/2011 Location: Washington, D.C. Description: Simon image and Ruvarna Naidoo briefing on the UNSCR 1540 Committee Visit to the U.S.: How the U.S. Combats WMD Terrorism - State Dept Image

4:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Hello, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we have Deputy Assistant Secretary Simon Limage and Ruvarna Naidoo, acting spokesperson for the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 Committee chairman, to deliver a media roundtable on the UNSCR 1540 Committee visit to the U.S. and how the United States combats WMD terrorism. Without further ado, here is the deputy assistant secretary.

MR. LIMAGE: Hello. I wanted to welcome you all to the Foreign Press Center and to thank you all individually for coming here and lending your ears and your interest to what is, for us, a very important visit.

As was mentioned, I’m the deputy assistant secretary for nonproliferation programs at the State Department, and as such have our cooperative engagement programs under me. And I am just one of many individuals and officials at the State Department and the – in the rest of the interagency that have been very focused on this particular visit and its many ramifications.

As you likely know, the United States Government as a whole strongly supports effective implementation of the 1540 resolution and was heartened the 10-year renewal, back in March, of the work of the committee and of its experts. We hope, because the visit itself is not fully complete, as I understand – there’s been – the details of which my colleague can discuss, and the visits within individual agencies, but our expectation when we first proposed and put forward the invitation was to give an opportunity to the experts of the 1540 Committee to come into the United States and see what we, broadly, the USG, had been doing to implement the spirit and the letter of the provisions of 1540. And four of the areas that we sought to explicate and to highlight were accountability, physical protection, border control – as in law enforcement efforts – and export controls.

The visit itself started on September the 12th to the 16th. And as in many other countries, dealing with weapons of mass destruction security issues writ large requires an interagency response. And so part of the visit included a number of conversations with the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, my own department – the State Department – and USDA, as many others. And this was to, as I said, demonstrate a whole-of-government approach to the problem of proliferation.

We worked very closely with the 1540 Committee to set up the visit, to understand their particular interests. This is not an exercise in propaganda; this is a very specifically tailored visit to meet the requirements of the committee and its experts. And our hope – and this is, without getting ahead of ourselves – is that there’ll be some important lessons learned from some of these conversations and the interactions that we’ve been able to have with the experts as to how other countries would prepare and carry out such visits, should they choose to do so.

So we set up a series of briefing sessions with the agencies to discuss a range of issues and answer questions from the experts on issues ranging, as I mentioned, from domestic controls and export controls to enforcement and proliferation finance. We organized visits to some key facilities for the experts and committee members to observe and interact with officials that handle weapons of mass destruction-related issues. And these included the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed research reactor at the University of Maryland, the National Institutes of Health BSL-4 training facility for bio-safety and bio-containment, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture BSL-3 laboratory.

So in addition to speaking with the experts, we really wanted to give them a hands-on approach to how we deal with security and safety issues in the United States. We didn’t want this to be a series of Power Points but an actual more qualitative experience. In – so that this would not simply be a USG set of interactions, we wanted to make sure that the experts spoke with civil society, so we arranged for meetings with groups outside the USG. There was a meeting hosted at The George Washington University by the Stanley Foundation and the Stimson Center.

Finally, we had a number of very productive and often even more interesting informal discussions and meals where we discussed nonproliferation, because that’s what we do anyway. So that was particularly enjoyable. And we, in – as a small plug to signal our tangible commitment to the work of the committee, we’re pleased to have provided recently $3 million in a contribution to the committee to enable it to continue to do its work.

So while our focus is our internal work in the United States on meeting the requirements of the 1540 Committee, I think it’s also important – and I’ll take this opportunity – to share that we are very interested and have active programs to work with countries that seek assistance and cooperation and partnership to build up their own capacity to meet those particular requirements, and that’s something that we’re very happy to do in that spirit.

So I’ll stop talking and turn over to my colleague.

MS. NAIDOO: Thank you. Colleagues, it’s a pleasure for me to be here, and thank you to the U.S. Government for hosting us this week. It’s been quite an experience, in a good way.

As you all know, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1540 in 2004 in response to growing concerns about illicit proliferation networks. It obliges states to take measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to include chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons and the means to deliver them.

The purpose of this week’s visit to Washington, DC by the representative of the 1540 – representatives of the 1540 Committee, conducted at the invitation of the U.S. Government, is to gain a better understanding of how the U.S. Government implements its obligations under UNSC Resolution 1540. The delegation is composed of a representative of the chairman of the committee, which is myself, two other members of the committee, and three experts to assist the committee in its task to facilitate the implementation of the resolution.

This is the first country visit by the 1540 Committee being carried out upon the invitation of a member state, as recommended by the 2009 Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of Resolution 1540 and incorporated recently in the Security Council’s Resolution 1977 of April 2011. The country visit is an important tool for building on the extent of awareness-raising activities of the committee and to engage in country-specific dialogue to enhance the efforts towards full implementation of the resolution. Such dialogue focusing on a number of questions and issues identified in preparatory consultations by the 1540 Committee with the U.S. departments and agencies involved in the visit will promote the sharing of experiences and lessons learned on effective practices of implementation in controlling the risk of proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery, and illicit trafficking in WMD-related materials.

We expect this exercise will be of mutual benefit. In reviewing the scope and status of implementation by the national officials, and in sharing with the 1540 Committee representatives their views on the challenges and possibilities in achieving full implementation. This is a significant year from the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540, as the Security Council has unanimously adopted Resolution 1977, extending the mandate of the 1540 Committee for another 10 years. The result reaffirms WMD proliferation as a threat to international peace and security, and notes that international cooperation is required to counter the illicit trafficking by non-state actors in WMD, their means of delivery, and related materials.

Significantly, the new resolution encourages all states to prepare, on a voluntary basis, longer-term plans to fully implement the resolution – the requirements of Resolution 1540. To monitor the progress made, the resolution provides for a comprehensive review at five-year intervals, the first held before December 2016. This long-term perspective will enable the 1540 Committee to continue to work in a transparent manner involving all states, relevant international, regional, and sub-regional organizations, and to draw on relevant expertise, including from civil society and the private sector as appropriate, with their states’ consent.

This country visit is important also in terms of strengthening the clearinghouse role of the 1540 Committee in channeling technical assistance for implementation of the resolution by all states, by gaining an understanding of the U.S. Government’s approach and assistance to facilitate the matching of offers and requests of assistance between states.

So I think these are the general points we would like to raise as a committee before you today, and I think we can proceed.

MODERATOR: Okay. As we move to the Q-and-A portion of the event, please state your name and publication for the transcript. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Toby Zakaria with Reuters. So from what you saw during this visit, I mean, how is the United States doing on the WMD front?

MS. NAIDOO: I have to say their doing a very good job of coordinating and getting information out there. I mean, what we’ve seen is that this is that this is quite a large country with a lot of areas to look at. And in terms of bringing together their different departments, I think they’ve done a very good job. In terms of coordination, they’ve done a very good job. And of course, they have the resources, so that is a very good point. And I think that’s also a good lesson learned for the committee.

QUESTION: Any shortfalls that you saw?

MS. NAIDOO: At this stage, we don’t think there are any at this – but, of course, it’s up also for the United States themselves, as a member state of the UN, to look at their own shortcomings and also inform us on areas they feel they could develop further and provide assistance to us in terms of information sharing.


QUESTION: Dmitry Kirsanov, Tass. As far as I understand, the USG initiated this visit. Do you have any invitations so far from any other countries, or everybody just sits back and waits – what’s going on later?

MS. NAIDOO: No. Generally in the committee, we do receive requests for assistance in implementation. And one of the things we’ve found is that some states do require assistance. With the United States Government, they invited us specifically to look at their controls and to sort of share their lessons learned as well. And also, given their many outreach activities on a bilateral level, they would like to offer assistance to states who need it. So that was the terms that we came under. And of course, that there are gaps that they feel they need assistance with from the committee, we’d be happy to provide that. But it’s also, as a member state, you have a right yourself to do your own assessment based on what the committee asks.

MR. LIMAGE: If I can offer, there were two parts to your question. Using my words here, I think for us this was a very valuable opportunity to renting (ph) our systems and how our government and our inter-agencies organize to deal with implementation results. We had not coordinated this particular press briefing, and there is going to be an actual report, as I understand it, from the committee, and we play no part in shaping that. That is something that we look forward to. And it’s fairly useless to us if it is somehow not a completely honest portrayal of our efforts. Otherwise, we have nothing to fix, and there’s always something that we can do better.

On your second point regarding offers of assistance, the other value of the 1540 commission and its experts is to play matchmaker between countries that go through the exercise of identifying gaps and shortcomings and requirements and pairing them with other countries, not just the United States, but who have some funds that they can devote to meeting some of those needs. So that’s another important mechanism that we wouldn’t have if they didn’t exist.

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Hirotsugu Mochizuki, with Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. You said that you need to extend your mandate for another 10 years, and then could you elaborate on the reason why you have to extend your own mandate? Because I think you have another – you have other mechanism to tackle proliferation of the WMD. So what are you going to achieving by extending your mandate?

MS. NAIDOO: Well, first of all, there is no other resolution like Resolution 1540 in the UN system, not that I’ve come across. We have sanctions committees, and they assist in specific cases, but this resolution is very broad in the sense that it brings together all three types of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. And I think the advantage we’ve had in extending it for 10 years is that we are able to fully look at the picture of various countries around the world and try to understand how different countries will implement these controls, because when you are dealing with a threat, you are not dealing with it on a short-term basis. So I think the committee found that through long deliberations over the years, and we found that perhaps we need a longer-term mandate, and that was agreed to in April of this year.

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Kim, VOA -- Korean Service. I know there are UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea specifically, so proliferation issue. But your committee also should deal with that issue. And North Korea is more of a problem maker than problem – one of the problem solvers. How significant is it when you’re dealing with this agenda you have? And wonder if North Korea has ever submitted their report.

MS. NAIDOO: Well, without going to detail, 1540’s actually a resolution that requires states to enforce controls over their export system and domestic controls over their materials that could be used further for the development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly by non-state actors. The DPRK committee’s a separate sanctions committee. We do not oversee their work. We have a completely separate mandate, and our mandate is strictly limited to enforcing the – sorry – the obligations under Resolution 1540. So we – I do not see how those two are related.

QUESTION: I mean, in your committee, how did the deal with the North Korea issue? It should be one of your biggest concern there.

MS. NAIDOO: The UN has a separate sanctions committee dealing with specifically with the DPRK.

QUESTION: Yeah. So the DPRK issue is not included on your agenda?

MS. NAIDOO: It’s on the UN agenda; it’s not on this committee’s agenda, unless the DPRK asks for assistance with enforcement of its obligations.

QUESTION: Has North Korea submitted their report to your committee?

MS. NAIDOO: We’re not at liberty to talk about specific countries.

QUESTION: Edouard Guihare, AFP. (Inaudible) Middle East, in Israel? You’ve been – do you plan to work with them, (inaudible)?

MS. NAIDOO: I think if they submitted an assistance request to the committee, we would have to consider it, but that would be for all 15 member states to consider, not just for the chair’s office.

MR. LIMAGE: If I can highlight that there’s a voluntary nature to this particular relationship.


MR. LIMAGE: This a highly constructive committee that exists to help countries meet their requirements and obligations under the resolution. So if Israel, a country with some financial means, wants to discuss and see ways to perfect how it complies with the resolution, the committee itself would be in a place to assist it. And certainly --

QUESTION: So it is maybe a kind of weakness for the committee to work, if the countries have to ask, have to send an invitation?

MR. LIMAGE: Well, it would be, I think, fairly implausible for us to identify weak – I mean, us, I’m must speaking for the U.S. Government.


MR. LIMAGE: We can’t assume certain weaknesses. We can identify concerns we might have, but a country’s best suited to know how it wants to implement and what capabilities it wants to perfect. There’s – it is such a broad topic. There are so many different aspects to proliferation. I’ve been working with various delegations even today with various countries that are interested in looking at issues from strategic trade controls to port security to various transportation security issues, so there’s a vast set of issues that the United States is committed to helping other countries work with. But I think you would be asking for too much for this committee to be proactively trying to identify flaws. I think that’s just not within its mandate. But you might have a different take.

MS. NAIDOO: No, I agree with you. And I think one of the strengths of having the member states request is that it’s not seen as something that’s imposed from above; it’s seen as something that is participatory to every member state of the UN, all 193. So in giving states some ownership of that, you also allow them to take some responsibility, because immediately when you tell them what kind of export controls and domestic legislation to enforce, it becomes an issue of national sovereignty. And this is quite a broad-ranging resolution from that respective.

MR. LIMAGE: And it is fairly explicit. In going through it, one has a good understanding of the areas to work on, so it’s not a vague document. There’s an actual contract and items to work on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Dmitry Kirsanov, TASS. Can I ask you to give us some kind of examples of the results of your work, given the voluntary nature of this cooperation between your committee and the countries, members of the United Nations, what exactly you produce as a result of your work?

MS. NAIDOO: Well, this was why we extended the resolution – well, I mean, the mandate of the committee – for another 10 years, because it was very difficult to see results when you were only given a two-year timeframe. And of course, our hope is that in the terms of the country visit, it’s a catalyst or the countries to come forward and invite the committee to look at their controls. So this is almost a new beginning in the resolution.

MR. LIMAGE: I think that’s right. I think we should commit to meet again in a year. And without being flip, I think there’s a lot that will be learned from this particular visit in the way not just on specifics but individual agencies within countries, the steps that they take, but how parts of the governments work together. And I’ve noticed, at least in my bilateral work, that every country approaches these issues fairly differently.

I work consistently with very different and inconsistent ministries around the world, and it is a matter of other countries organizing themselves and prioritizing and deciding to work on things in a certain matter. But I can’t understand how to work with other countries unless I have some of the ground laid for me through the work of this – of the committee and the committee of experts and that relationship that it has with the other UN member states, because what works for the United States may not work – minus some international standards for some type of behavior and some security standards, different countries do things differently.

QUESTION: Edouard Guihare, AFP. So you stay here for four days with six people, six, seven people with you?

MS. NAIDOO: Five days. That’s – we still have tomorrow.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s enough to review the situation?

MS. NAIDOO: Just – sorry?

QUESTION: Do you think it’s enough to review the situation in the U.S.?

MS. NAIDOO: Well, the idea behind the visit is not that it’s an inclusive visit and it’s not that we see ourselves as a replacement for the IAEA or the OPCW or the BTWC international support unit. The idea is we look at measures they have taken in terms of their legislation and international controls. So I think in that, our requirement is very simple. I don’t think we are required to go around and act as inspectors of the UN Security Council.

MR. LIMAGE: If I can help answer that, too, a week doesn’t seem like a very long time. It’s a lifetime in some of our – in some of the work that we do. I understand there may be some follow-up that you’re going to do.


MR. LIMAGE: You may – we may not – you may be staying here a little bit longer to potentially have some additional visits. I think this is a first attempt. Other countries may offer more time or less time. It’ll be sort of up to them. But I think it’s hopefully been a useful snapshot.

QUESTION: Toby Zakaria, Reuters. Is this essentially like a self-help thing, I mean, where the countries ask the committee to come in to basically help (inaudible) team, as you put it, the issue –

MR. LIMAGE: To me, that’s --

QUESTION: Because it doesn’t sound like the – it doesn’t sound like you – your committee is actually going to be making any judgments or –

MS. NAIDOO: Well, the visit’s not over yet, so we will be writing a report and we will be submitting it to the committee for approval.

QUESTION: But I mean, what you write is not – I mean, you don’t have to do anything with it, right?

MR. LIMAGE: In terms of whether it’s binding or not (inaudible). For us, it could potentially help us think through some problems that we might not have identified. So to us, it’s very valuable.

QUESTION: So it’s having an outside – another outside eye --

MR. LIMAGE: Correct.

QUESTION: -- on what you’re already --

MR. LIMAGE: -- in how --

QUESTION: -- internally --

MR. LIMAGE: Yeah. It’s – to us, another way of describing it is potentially a report card on how we’re doing on implementing the provisions of a resolution that we ourselves helped craft and father, so we see this as a useful product.

QUESTION: Hirotsugu Mochizuki, Asahi Shimbun. I can understand the importance of – for each country to have a decent export control systems, but what could be (ph) incentives for each country? And then what challenge do you face to let them implement what you want them to implement?

MR. NAIDOO: Well, first of all, every country has a buy-in to this resolution because it was passed under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter, so it’s legally binding on all member states. And I think that’s the problem we were finding when we had the resolution extended, the original 1540 extended for two- or three-year periods. So we hope is that with the longer-term mandate of 10 years, we are able to reach out to countries and encourage them to submit their national reports.

On a voluntary basis, even national implementation plans – again, without being obtrusive, but asking them to please implement the measures that are required under Resolution 1540, under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. (Laughter.)

MR. LIMAGE: Are there other questions? Sure.

QUESTION: Dmitry Kirsanov, TASS. Can I ask an off-topic question? And I would like you to (inaudible), Mr. Secretary – about Libya, about MANPADS, what’s going on? (Laughter.) I mean, the reports are out there that the depots of the Qadhafi regime, some of them at least, were ransacked, and (inaudible). And at least – and you keep saying, at least, the spokesman for the State Department, that no, no, no, everything is fine. We are working with a number of, well, two humanitarian de-mining organizations trying to secure depots (inaudible). But what’s the – what’s going on there? What’s the real picture? Do you know that? How many of those weapons are gone and who’s trying to secure the places like that? Could you shed any light on that?

MR. LIMAGE: You’re not going to like my answer, but I’m going to have to defer on that one. MANPADS are obviously a threat and they’ve been a problem in other countries and other situations. They pose a grave risk. The United States is part of the solution to that issue. But beyond that, I think I’m going to have to beg off on that question.

MODERATOR: Are there any other final questions? Well, thank you all for coming. This event is now concluded.

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