Tenth anniversary of the Proliferation Security Initiative nears

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Vann Van Diepen and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Ken Handelman spoke on Thursday about the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Proliferation Security Initative.

The tenth anniversary of the PSI will be held in Warsaw, Poland next week. Diepen and Handelman spoke in Washington about some of the proudest moments of the PSI since its formation in 2003 and how it continues to be a key component of nonproliferation.

"So, the starting point on this issue, of course, is that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems remains a key threat to international peace and security," Diepen said. "And the Proliferation Security Initiative, the PSI, was created in 2003 to give political impetus and build capacity to interdict shipments related to this kind of proliferation, and in doing so augmenting the panoply of treaties, regimes, export controls, sanctions and other components of the whole international nonproliferation toolkit."

Diepen said developing a network of 102 countries dedicated to incorporating PSI into their routine practices was one the PSI's greatest accomplishments, not only because it plays a key role in ending proliferation but also because of the message it sends to proliferators. Handelman added he finds all of the PSI's accomplishments very valuable, considering the initiative is non-treaty-based.

"PSI was specifically established as a flexible kind of non-treaty-based, non-institutionalized activity," Handelman said. "It wasn't attached to the U.N. or NATO or [The Association of Southeast Asian Nations] or any other of these treaty-based alliances. However, the fact that the U.N. in one of its Security Council resolutions embraced the type of thing that PSI is trying to do, I think we kind of counted as a victory."

With the upcoming anniversary meeting next week, Diepen said he anticipates further action from member states will be taken to uphold the PSI.

"We anticipate that participating states will make various declarations of concrete actions that they will take to reinforce the PSI," Diepen said. "And these are likely to include undertakings to conduct new events such as further exercises and workshops, new efforts to reach out to other states that have yet to endorse the PSI, more contributions to the Critical Capabilities and Practices effort to enhance common capabilities to interdict WMD-related shipments; and measures to strengthen individual national capacities and individual national authorities to conduct interdictions."