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.
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 the previous UN Secretary General Annan as an important way to "fill a gap in our defences".
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.
96 states now support PSI, and this number is steadily increasing. PSI activities are coordinated by a 20-country Operational Experts Group (OEG), which includes Australia.
During a speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, President Obama stated that the international community should come together to turn efforts such as the PSI into ‘durable international institutions’.
More recently, the US Nuclear Posture Review Report [PDF-2.7 MB] noted ‘We are implementing President Obama’s pledge to make the Proliferation Security Initiative into a durable international institution, under which over 90 countries coordinate, share intelligence, and build capacity to interdict WMD-related transfers’ (page 10).
The report also included a photograph of members of a joint US and Australian Navy boarding team conducting a security sweep aboard USNS Walter S. Diehl during Exercise Deep Sabre II in October 2009 (page 34).
Australia's commitment to PSI
Australia is an original and continuing supporter of the PSI.
Countering the threat of WMD proliferation is a key security priority for Australia, and participation in practical initiatives, such as the PSI, is an important component of Australia's multidimensional strategy in addressing this growing threat.
Australia will host the first Regional OEG (ROEG) meeting in Cairns from 14-16 September 2010, in conjunction with Exercise Pacific Protector ’10.
The ROEG meeting is an important opportunity for like-minded States in the Asia Pacific to strengthen regional measures to combat illicit transfers of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), delivery systems and related materials.
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.
Australia has a strong history of commitment to PSI, hosting the first ever PSI exercise, PACIFIC PROTECTOR 03, and through our ongoing participation in OEG and ROEG meetings, workshops and PSI exercises around the world.
In April 2006, Australia also hosted Exercise PACIFIC PROTECTOR 06, an air/ground interdiction exercise around Darwin. Australia participated in the OEG-Outreach Event in Miami (May 2009) and co-hosted with the US a successful PSI Regional Workshop in Sydney (Sep 2009).
The Australian Defence Force has provided important assets to international Exercises, such as LEADING EDGE in United Arab Emirates (24-28 Jan 2010), and DEEP SABRE II hosted by Singapore (37-30 Oct 2009).
Australian Government subject matter experts actively participate in 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 at: http://www.dfat.gov.au.