Project Alpha’s Ian Stewart addresses Proliferation Security Initiative meeting in London

The Proliferation Security Initiative’s Operational Experts Group met last week in London, bringing together government representatives from 21 countries together with civil society experts in counter-proliferation for discussions on a broad range of topics relating to counter proliferation, including proliferation finance, intangible technology, and 3D printing.

Head of Project Alpha, Ian J. Stewart, addressed participants on the topic of changing trends and challenges in WMD proliferation.

Mr Stewart began his remarks by addressing the Iranian and North Korean cases. He highlighted that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), whilst representing a win for the international community, is not without its challenges, which the PSI apparatus can conceivably help to ameliorate. Implementation monitoring, especially of the JCPOA’s procurement channel, which has yet to have had a single cases submitted to it, will have to be robust. States will also need to respond to Iranian missile advancements. Finally, work will have to be done to determine the longer term evolution of the Iranian nuclear program. Importantly, agreements like the JCPOA do not reduce the need for measures like the PSI.

The North Korean situation is slightly more complex. An important potential development within this context is that China appears more able to take action to enforce measures against the DPRK. More needs to be done to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2270, including notifications to CP authorities if DPRK vessels have approached the states territorial waters. Mr Stewart highlighted the need for a global strategy, one which PSI could contribute to, as well as a better understanding of North Korean procurement practices.

Mr Stewart pointed out that it would be a mistake for PSI members to focus solely on the DPRK and Iran in light of several emerging proliferation challenges. These include the acquisition and use of chemical weapons in the context of Syria and Iraq; conventional arms proliferation; capability transfer (including but not limited to nuclear and nuclear-capable submarines); vertical proliferation of existing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs; new proliferators; and potentially disruptive technologies such as additive manufacturing that could lead to a fundamental shift in the counter-proliferation landscape. Broader issues also include changing global trade flows thanks to internet trading platforms, secondary sales and non-state actors, and the rejection by some countries of the concept of dual-use trade controls and the role that their territories play in proliferation.

Mr Stewart ended his address by pointing to some of the ways that PSI might be able to contribute to these issues; such as providing a useful bridge between member states of the export control regimes and non-members, and the linking of enforcement measures to the implementation of UNSCR 1540.