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17th Meeting of the CSCAP Study Group on Countering the Proliferation of WMD in the Asia Pacific


– 06/03/2013


Manila, Philippines


June 2-3, 2013
Manila, Philippines

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The 17th meeting of the Study Group on Countering the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD SG) of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) was held in Manila, Philippines on June 2-3, 2013, back-to-back with the 5th ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ARF ISM/NPD). It brought together 74 participants from 19 countries from throughout the Asia-Pacific and beyond, including a number of ISM/NPD participants and Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders. All attended in their private capacities. The meeting examined nuclear security and fissile material management, enrichment and reprocessing technologies and challenges, and other peaceful use issues, along with UNSCR 1540 implementation, implementation of the biological and chemical weapons conventions, missile proliferation, Korean Peninsula denuclearization, and other proliferation and disarmament issues. Key findings from this meeting include:

There is an important need in the Asia Pacific to ensure that nuclear security governance keeps pace with the growth in nuclear energy. The Fukushima disaster may slow but is not likely to halt the region’s quest for nuclear power, despite growing safety, security, and proliferation concerns associated with its use.

Participants recognize that the development of enrichment and reprocessing technologies by individual states poses a security and proliferation problem, in addition to being generally uneconomical. At a minimum, national development of such technologies should be conducted in a fully transparent manner. Governments choosing to pursue nuclear energy should have signed and ratified the Additional Protocol.

“Gold Standard” nuclear cooperation agreements can help alleviate regional safety and security concerns as would a commitment by nuclear energy producers to seek readily available external sources to satisfy reprocessing and enrichment requirements. The WMD SG noted that the establishment of an ASEAN or broader Asia-Pacific Reprocessing and Enrichment Free Zone (REFZ) could be a significant confidence building/reassurance measure.

Serious sustained multilateral dialogue on back end of the fuel cycle issues is needed at both the official and track two level. Spent fuel management is a common problem. More effort is needed to develop regional approaches to dealing with the challenges associated with waste disposal, reprocessing and enrichment; the ARF and CSCAP should take the lead in this area.

Questions remain about the sustainability of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS). While planning for the third summit in the Netherlands in 2014 is proceeding, there is general concern about the need and feasibility of maintaining high level attention and participation. WMD SG participants acknowledged the need to enhance nuclear security governance, although there was little agreement on what it should include. ARF members were encouraged to prepare national reports and recommendations outlining concrete steps being taken and to develop joint baskets proposals for consideration at the 2014 NSS; the ASEANTOM initiative was highlighted in this regard.

Prospects for moving forward on opening negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty at the Conference on Disarmament remain dim. Beyond the procedural challenge of the consensus rule, finding compromises on definitions, scope of obligations, and verification will be challenging. The ARF should echo CSCAP in calling for an early opening of discussion on this issue.

Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 is progressing in the Asia Pacific and the ARF’s role in raising regional awareness on this initiative was applauded. Participants noted that it would be considerably improved if governments increased information sharing (namely of best practices), designated points of contact, and developed and shared comprehensive national action plans. Regional organizations also should become more engaged in facilitating implementation of the Resolution and in reviewing and assessing national reports or assisting in their preparation as required/requested.

Next steps should include an examination of measures for enhancing 1540 implementation in a way that supports greater regional economic integration. (The CSCAP WMD SG is working on a Memorandum which establishes general principles and recommended measures for more effective implementation of UNSCR 1540.)

WMD SG participants are fully aware of the sensitivities that exist regarding the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) but note that concerns about its legality and application methods are being addressed. Greater examination of the PSI’s role in capacity building in support of UNSCR 1540 seems warranted.

There is a sense of frustration that implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan is lagging across the board. Numerous action items related to disarmament are being ignored. This augurs badly for next year’s PrepCom, where the P-5 have to report on their efforts to move toward disarmament, and for the 2015 Review Conference.

While many states view US President Barack Obama’s disarmament agenda articulated in his Prague speech as a positive development, there is growing skepticism that enough political leadership and clear vision can be found to follow through to close the divide between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states.

A new civil society movement centered on articulating the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in an effort to delegitimize and eliminate them is gaining traction. However, this approach is contested, especially among the P-5 states, which have characterized it as a distraction to the nuclear disarmament agenda. There was some agreement that if the humanitarian consequences initiative were to sustain momentum, it will have to focus on identifying the processes necessary to delegitimize the use of nuclear weapons.

Participants expressed concerns about North Korea’s recent missile and nuclear tests and urged Pyongyang to refrain from provocative rhetoric and actions. There was general skepticism about the prospects for finding an agreement that would enable a return to the Six-Party Talks in the near future, while there was general agreement that full implementation of UN sanctions is required in the meantime. Pyongyang was strongly encouraged to open direct dialogue on broader Peninsula security issues with the ROK government to help defuse tensions and create a better atmosphere for tension reducing measures. The possibility of a five-party dialogue was also discussed.

There is recognition that coordination among all parties is helpful to address the sometimes contradictory calls for increased pressure and for constructive  bilateral and multilateral dialogue on the Korean Peninsula. As a starting point, it is imperative that individual states keep others apprised of their efforts to advance dialogue. In the absence of Six-Party Talks, ASEAN/ARF and CSCAP can play a facilitating role.

Missile proliferation is a growing concern in the Asia Pacific. As part of a broader military modernization effort, several governments are developing various kinds of missile systems with longer range and enhanced payload and accuracy. The spread of cruise missiles, in particular, is progressing at a rapid rate.

The control regime for missile technology is underdeveloped and vaguely defined as the “means of delivery” for WMD. As a result, it is ill-suited to respond to current missile proliferation threats and unlikely to mature to become a regime comparable to the NPT, the BTWC, and CWC. Fresh thinking is needed to address the issue of controlling the spread of missiles and related technology in the Asia Pacific. A discussion of missile defense capabilities is a key component of such dialogue, along with concerns about growing offensive missile capabilities.

Strengthening and investing in health security is essential and urgent. It is best achieved through cross-sectoral cooperation and transparency, both within individual states and at the regional level. Participants recognized the importance of, and the need to enhance, existing disease surveillance networks in the Asia Pacific as a bio-security measure and recognize bio-security as an important component in countering WMD proliferation.

CSCAP WMD SG welcomes the opportunity to present its findings at ARF ISM/NPD meetings and remains committed to holding back-to-back meetings with the ISM/NPD when/as appropriate. We welcome ISM co-chair representative presentations at the WMD SC meetings as well.

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