The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a global effort that aims to build capabilities to counter illicit trade in technology for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems and related materials, to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern.
PSI participants are deeply concerned about the threat of WMD proliferation, and about the danger posed by WMD in the hands of terrorists.
Under the PSI, countries commit to establish a more coordinated and effective basis to impede and stop the illicit trade in WMD by interdicting vessels, aircraft or other modes of transport in or over their territory or territorial waters that are reasonably suspected of carrying illicit cargo.
The PSI has transformed how nations act together against proliferation, harnessing their diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence assets in a multinational, yet flexible, fashion.
For example, in October 2003, the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Italy, acting under the auspices of PSI, stopped an illegal cargo of centrifuge parts to be used for uranium enrichment in Libya. This interdiction led to the welcome decision by Libya to renounce its WMD programs.
The PSI complements the existing network of arms control and counter-proliferation regimes and treaties, and has been praised by former UN Secretary General Annan as an important way to "fill a gap in our defences". Through the auspices of PSI, the first United Nations Security Council Resolutions to combat WMD proliferation were agreed and sanctions implemented.
Participants in PSI commit themselves under the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles to take action to interdict illicit WMD transfers where appropriate, to the extent that their national legal systems permit and consistent with their obligations under international law and frameworks. The PSI commenced in 2003 and has grown from 11 founding members, including Australia, to a multi-national grouping of 105 countries that span all major regions of the globe. PSI activities are coordinated by a 21-country Operational Experts Group (OEG), which includes Australia.
Australia is an original and continuing supporter of the PSI. Countering the threat of WMD proliferation is a key security priority for Australia, as stated in the 2016 Defence White Paper. Participation in practical initiatives, including the PSI, is an important component of Australia's multidimensional strategy in addressing this growing threat.
The proliferation problem is especially relevant in the Asia-Pacific and Australia is committed to working with its neighbours on non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.
Through our political commitment the PSI, Australia has developed whole-of-government counter-proliferation guidelines for interdictions which addresses diplomatic, intelligence, science and technology, law enforcement, military and border control related issues.
Australia has a strong history of commitment to PSI, actively participating in PSI Operational Experts Group meetings, PSI regional exercises and outreach around the world.
Australia's support for regional PSI events was formalised through our commitment to the PSI Asia-Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER) schedule in 2014. The APER involves Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and the United States formally rotating the hosting of a regionally-focused PSI exercise.
Australia hosted our first of such PSI exercises in 2003, PACIFIC PROTECTOR 03, and has also hosted Exercise PACIFIC PROTECTOR 06 in April 2006, an air/ground interdiction exercise around Darwin, and Exercise PACIFIC PROTECTOR 10 in September 2010.
Australia is hosting Exercise PACIFIC PROTECTOR 2017 (PP17) in Cairns during 6 – 9 September 2017. This will be Australia's fourth PSI exercise, but it's first since the APER schedule was formalised.
The Australian Defence Force has also provided important assets to a range of international PSI Exercises, both within the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
Alongside these exercises Australia co-hosted with the US a successful PSI Regional Workshop in Sydney in September 2009. Australia hosted the first Regional Operational Experts Group meeting in Cairns from 14 – 16 September 2010. The ROEG meeting was an important opportunity for like-minded States in the Asia Pacific to strengthen regional measures to combat illicit transfers of WMD, delivery systems and related materials.
Australian Government subject matter experts actively participate in exercises, workshops and meetings to improve information exchange and capacity building within the PSI community.
For more information on Australia's arms control and counter-proliferation policies, visit the website of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.