CSCAP Study Group on Nonproliferation and Disarmament in the Asia-Pacific

April 6-7, 2015
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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The first meeting of the Study Group on Nonproliferation and Disarmament (NPD) of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) was held in Kuala Lumpur on April 6-7, 2015. The approximately 45 participants included representatives from 13 CSCAP member committees and 12 Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders. All attended in their private capacities. The group examined recent developments in nonproliferation and disarmament, the impact of proliferation financing, biological threats, and recent Korean Peninsula developments. It examined the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Work Plan on NPD and discussed future study group priorities, focusing on capacity building to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. Key findings included:

While work remains in raising regional awareness regarding nonproliferation, there is an urgent need to move toward implementation of key treaties and instruments and to build capacity to do so in critical areas like enhanced controls on strategic goods and a comprehensive approach to nuclear security that includes security of facilities, transportation, and information management systems. Raising awareness, however, remains critical; it is key to getting governments to put resources behind capacity building.

A first step to engaging private industry in implementing effective trade controls on strategic goods is to create a legal framework that gives companies incentives to comply with requirements to create internal compliance programs to ensure licensing of strategic goods and the protection of key technologies.

All too often, efforts aimed at countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or promoting non-proliferation and disarmament focus almost exclusively on nuclear issues, but significant threats remain in the biological, chemical, and radiological areas as well which should not be overlooked.

The growing importance of biological research and the threat of pandemic diseases have created an urgent need for a comprehensive regional approach to biosecurity. While the primary threat may be from the unintended spread of disease, the consequences are the same if a biological agent is intentionally introduced. A program that includes effective surveillance, control of biological materials and technology, biosafety practices in laboratories, as well as broad disease prevention, mitigation, and response measures is critical to promoting public health and preventing the proliferation of substances used in the development of biological agents. 

Important first steps in promoting regional biosecurity are establishing a code of conduct for researchers, improving domestic legislation, training to conduct bio-risk assessments, and developing comprehensive response plans that effectively integrate multiple agencies into the process to ensure effective response to a biosecurity incident.

The ARF should not compartmentalize nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Rather than discussing each topic once every three years, all three issues should be addressed at each inter-sessional meeting. Chemical and biological issues also need to be better integrated into the ARF Work Plan on NPD.

Nonproliferation must be an integral part of the regional security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. All ARF member states should be encouraged to accede to the key conventions, treaties, and agreements that serve as implementing mechanisms for enhancing nuclear safety and security and preventing the spread of strategic goods and technologies to nonstate actors. All states and especially those contemplating the use of nuclear energy should take immediate steps to accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Convention on Nuclear Safety, and complement their IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the Additional Protocol.  Promoting entry into force of the CTBT should remain a priority; it promotes other nonproliferation initiatives by serving as a confidence-building measure and verification tool.

The outlook for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) is rather modest with most analysts expecting a minimally acceptable consensus statement as the most likely outcome. The Preparatory Committee meetings have set the groundwork and the Iran framework agreement should provide positive momentum. Major barriers to a more robust outcome are tensions between the West and Russia which inhibit new arms control initiatives, and continued frustration by non-nuclear-weapon states over the perceived lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament. The delays in convening the promised dialogue on establishing a Middle East WMD-free zone will likely be seen as an ongoing disappointment. To improve the chances of success, all states should focus on reaffirming the 2010 action items and establishing a mechanism for measuring progress.

The movement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use is at odds with the incremental approach favored by the nuclear weapon states. The anticipated joint statement by the P-5 at the upcoming NPT RevCon should directly address this issue by announcing increased transparency on their disarmament activities.

Dialogue is critical to promote denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, the current stalemate and general lack of trust between the DPRK and the US will require innovative thinking to move the process forward.

The  recent UNSC DPRK Sanctions Committee report reveals an increasingly sophisticated effort by the DPRK to circumvent UN sanctions under UNSCR 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 by taking deliberate actions such as renaming vessels and trading companies, falsifying shipping documents, masking financial transactions, and taking advantage of the lack of “catch-all” provisions in regulations governing transit shipping. States should pass legislation that allows seizure of goods and prosecution of individuals involved in these practices.

The Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANFZ) has been severely weakened by reservations from the UK, France, and especially Russia. In addition to seeking an end to the demand for reservations, SEANFZ states should explore the idea of expanding from a nuclear weapon free zone to a WMD free zone.

The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process has helped raise awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism and the need for enhanced nuclear security. However, the nuclear security regime remains fragmented and underdeveloped and it’s not clear what happens to the NSS process after the 2016 Summit. The ARF should encourage all states to accede to key nuclear security regimes such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material including the 2005 amendment, the International Convention on the Suppression of Nuclear Terrorism, and the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

Nuclear Security Centers of Excellence in the Asia-Pacific region elevate understanding of nuclear security and provide education and training to professionals in the field. The ARF should work to institutionalize nuclear governance in Asia by improving coordination among the CoEs to avoid duplication of efforts and take advantage of economies of scale and comparative advantages of each center.

There is general recognition that effective nuclear security culture is a key element in ensuring the security of nuclear facilities, but little consensus on how it can best be taught. Given the broad range of definitions and the various approaches being taken, the ARF should undertake a study to determine alternative approaches to implementing nuclear security culture.

The value of UNSCR 1540 is broadly recognized. The ARF should continue to promote 1540 information-sharing, identify best practices, promote national action plans, and designate points of contact. As indicated in the recently completed CSCAP Memorandum No. 27, “Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540,” greater effort is needed at both the national and regional levels to implement the resolution.

The UN Resolution 1540 Committee plays an important role in connecting requests for capacity with willing donors, but, because of a lack of resources, is inefficient in taking requests. The ARF could improve this process by establishing a mechanism at the regional level to coordinate requests and relay them to the committee.

The ARF is strongly encouraged to carefully examine CSCAP Memorandums to develop new projects to implement the ARF Work Plan on Nonproliferation and Disarmament.  Five separate memos covering nonproliferation, management of trade of strategic goods, UNSCR 1540, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy can be found at the CSCAP website:

For more information, please contact CSCAP WMD Study Group co-chairs. These findings reflect the view of the seminar chairmen; this is not a consensus document.