"[The Arms Control Association is an] 'exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size.'" 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Kelsey Davenport

Iran’s Nuclear Growth Puts Deal at Risk

December 2021
By Kelsey Davenport

As negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal resumed on Nov. 29 in Vienna, Iran’s uranium-enrichment program continued to grow, deepening concerns that Tehran is not serious about returning to compliance with the accord.

As the 2015 nuclear deal hangs by a thread, Iran continues to expand its uranium-enrichment program, according to a report issued in November by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. (Photo by ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images)According to a Nov. 17 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent uranium-235 is 114 kilograms, up from 85 kilograms documented in the agency’s prior report, issued Sept. 7. The stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent U-235 is 17.7 kilograms, up from 10 kilograms.

Uranium enriched to these levels poses a more significant proliferation risk because it can be enriched more quickly to the level of weapons grade, or 90 percent U-235. For that reason, Iran was prohibited from enriching uranium above 3.67 percent U-235, a level suitable for nuclear power reactors, for 15 years under the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran enriched uranium to 20 percent prior to the JCPOA negotiations, but only began enriching to 60 percent in April. (See ACT, May 2021.)

In January 2021, Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent in accordance with a December 2020 law that was passed by Iran to pressure the United States into lifting sanctions and returning to compliance with the JCPOA. (See ACT, January/February 2021.) The United States reimposed sanctions in May 2018 and withdrew from the deal, despite U.S. intelligence acknowledging that Iran was complying with the accord. (See ACT, June 2018.)

The Nov. 17 report also noted that Iran accelerated its installation of more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium more efficiently than the IR-1 machines that were permitted for enrichment under the JCPOA.

According to the IAEA, Iran has installed more than 170 IR-6 machines at its Fordow nuclear facility since the September report. These machines are not yet enriching uranium, but Iran is required to begin operating 1,000 IR-6 centrifuges by the end of the year in accordance with the new Iranian law. The new machines bring Iran to about 400 installed IR-6 centrifuges, of which about 210 are operating.

Iran’s continued manufacture and use of advanced centrifuges and its enrichment of uranium to 60 percent pose a more significant risk to multilateral efforts to restore U.S. and Iranian compliance with the JCPOA because Tehran has gained knowledge from these activities that cannot be reversed.

Biden administration officials have consistently stated that the United States seeks to return to compliance with the JCPOA alongside Iran, but only if the nonproliferation benefits of the deal can be fully restored. They appear to be using the 12-month breakout time established by the JCPOA as the metric for determining if returning to the agreement is still viable. A 12-month breakout means that if Iran were to decide to pursue nuclear weapons development, it would take a year to produce the fissile material for one bomb. Weaponization could take another two years.

Iran’s breakout time now is about one month. Reestablishing the 12-month breakout time frame becomes more challenging over time because of the knowledge Iran has gained from developing nuclear capabilities it did not have prior to the JCPOA, such as operating more efficient centrifuges and enriching uranium to 60 percent.

Iran’s nuclear advances have increased concerns in the region and among parties to the accord that Tehran is not serious about restoring the JCPOA. Talks to restore the deal resumed Nov. 29 after a five-month hiatus.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde on Nov. 19 that the resumed talks will enable Paris to assess Tehran’s willingness to pick up where discussions left off in June. He warned that if the “discussion is a sham, then we will have to consider the JCPOA empty.”

Israel already appears to believe that Iran no longer intends to return to the JCPOA, despite Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reiterating that restoring the deal is Iran’s goal.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Nov. 15 that Iran is buying time and has no intention of returning to the accord. His comments came after a meeting with Robert Malley, U.S. special envoy for Iran.

The previous week, Aviv Kochavi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the military is "speeding up the operational plans and readiness for dealing with Iran and the nuclear military threat."

Israel has attacked Iranian nuclear facilities in the past and assassinated nuclear scientists to slow the program. Tehran has generally responded by ratcheting up its nuclear activities. For instance, Iran cited an explosion at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility in April as motivating its decision to enrich to 60 percent.

Similarly, the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakrizadeh in November 2020 led to the passage of
the law that mandated the acceleration of certain nuclear activities, including enrichment to 20 percent, and new
breaches of the JCPOA.

In addition to Israeli officials, Malley held talks with officials from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, and Jordan during a Nov. 18 trip to Saudi Arabia. He was joined by officials from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, who are participating in the negotiations with Iran.

A U.S. State Department statement on Nov. 18 said that the parties underlined that “a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA would benefit the entire Middle East.”


As negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal resumed, Iran’s uranium-enrichment program continued to grow, deepening international concerns.

Iran Continues Blocking IAEA Access

December 2021
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran continues to block International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from accessing a nuclear facility and installing new surveillance equipment. Reports that Iran has resumed operations at the facility, which produces centrifuges for enriching uranium, heightens concerns about gaps in data that could complicate the agency’s monitoring efforts if the 2015 nuclear deal is restored.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian shakes hands with the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi at the foreign ministry headquarters in the capital Tehran on November 23, 2021.  (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)A Nov. 17 report from the IAEA noted that inspectors tried to access the Karaj centrifuge component production facility once in September and twice in October to install new surveillance cameras. Each time, Iran prohibited inspectors from entering the facility.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi traveled to Tehran for talks on Nov. 23 aimed at addressing the access issue. In a press conference the next day, he said the meetings were constructive but inconclusive. Grossi said that the trip, which included talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, was indispensable for exchanging views but that the agency and Iran could not resolve the access issue and were running out of time. “We must reach an agreement,” Grossi said, “the issues are very, very important.” He said no further meetings are scheduled, but he would remain in contact with Amirabdollahian.

In a Nov. 23 statement, Amirabdollahian said Iran seeks “constructive interaction” with the IAEA.

IAEA inspectors have not had access to Karaj since Iran suspended the intrusive agency inspections required by the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in February. Under a special arrangement, IAEA cameras were continuing to collect data that would be handed over to the agency if the nuclear deal is restored. (See ACT, March 2021.)

Iran removed the four cameras from the Karaj facility in June, following an apparent sabotage attack on the site that Tehran blames on Israel. In an Oct. 28 letter to the agency, Iran said it had no legal obligation to allow inspectors to replace the cameras and was “investigating whether the terrorists have used the agency cameras to launch an attack on the complex.”

In the Nov. 17 report, Grossi said he “categorically rejects the idea that agency cameras played a role in assisting any third party to launch an attack” on the facility and offered to allow Iran to inspect the cameras in the presence of IAEA officials. He reiterated that Karaj was included in a special IAEA-Iranian arrangement on Sept. 12 allowing inspectors to replace the data storage on surveillance cameras at various sites.

The IAEA said in its report that it could not verify if production of centrifuge components had resumed at Karaj, but officials quoted in a Nov. 16 article in The Wall Street Journal said that Iran had resumed activities at the facility and produced parts for about 170 centrifuges since August. The IAEA report confirms that Iran installed new centrifuges at its Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities since the prior report in September, but does not indicate where the centrifuges were produced.

Grossi stressed in October the importance of the IAEA resuming monitoring at the site prior to the resumption of centrifuge production to prevent further gaps in the IAEA’s knowledge about the facility.

Although The Wall Street Journal article said there was no evidence that Iran was diverting centrifuges from Karaj for covert activities, a gap in the monitoring could complicate agency efforts to account for all the components produced at the facility.

If the IAEA cannot reconstruct the facility’s history, speculation that Iran is engaged in covert activities could undermine efforts to restore the nuclear deal and complicate the agency’s efforts to resume implementation of the monitoring and verification mechanisms.

The lack of access to Karaj is “seriously affecting the agency’s ability to restore continuity of knowledge at the workshop, which has been widely recognized as essential” if the IAEA is to resume monitoring under a restored nuclear deal, the report said.

At the Nov. 24 press conference, Grossi said the IAEA is “close” to the point where it will not be able to maintain continuity of knowledge.

A second report issued by the IAEA on Nov. 17 indicated that Iran also is not cooperating with an ongoing two-year-old investigation into the presence of nuclear materials found at four locations outside of Iran’s declared nuclear program sites.

The IAEA assessment of the uranium particles at three of the locations indicates that the materials and activities date to 2003, when the IAEA assesses Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program, and are not continuing. Iran’s failure to explain satisfactorily the presence of uranium at undeclared sites suggests Iran violated its safeguards obligations.

The second report warned that the “lack of substantive engagement” in resolving these issues “seriously affects the agency’s ability to provide assurance of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Iran continues to block International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from accessing a nuclear facility and installing new surveillance equipment.

China, Russia Propose North Korea Sanctions Relief

December 2021
By Kelsey Davenport

China and Russia are pushing the UN Security Council to lift certain sanctions on North Korea in recognition of steps Pyongyang has taken to denuclearize and to encourage further negotiations, according to a draft resolution circulated to council members. But comments by Biden administration officials suggest that the United States would almost certainly veto such a resolution if it were put to a vote.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, shown here in a 2020 photo, recently told a news conference in Beijing that because North Korea “has taken multiple denuclearization measures in recent years, its legitimate and reasonable concerns [about UN sanctions] deserve attention and response.”  The United States disagrees and is unlikely to support a Chinese-Russian UN Security Council resolution that would lift certain sanctions. (Photo by Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images)North Korea has been subject to Security Council sanctions since 2006 for continuing to advance its illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The United States says China is not adequately enforcing those measures and has repeatedly called for better implementation of UN sanctions in response to recent North Korean missile tests. In a Nov. 8 press briefing, U.S. Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said that China has influence with North Korea and needs to “put some bite” in UN sanctions enforcement in order to “help steer” Pyongyang toward diplomacy.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a Nov. 2 press briefing that the resolution circulated by Moscow and Beijing aims “to create an enabling atmosphere to facilitate the early start of dialogue” and that because North Korea “has taken multiple denuclearization measures in recent years, its legitimate and reasonable concerns deserve attention and response.” He said pursuing such a resolution now constructively supports efforts to restore negotiations. “[T]he United States should face the crux of the problem squarely…, propose attractive plans for dialogue, and take real actions instead of simply shouting slogans,” Wang added.

Wang also said that international sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic are having a negative impact on North Korean livelihoods, so “the Security Council should facilitate external support and assistance to the country.”

The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed its willingness to engage in negotiations with North Korea without preconditions and said it has made specific proposals to North Korea about resuming talks, but has not publicly discussed the details of the offer. (See ACT, November 2021.)

The draft resolution, circulated on Oct. 29, says that the council “shall consider positively adjusting the sanctions measures…in light of [North Korea’s] compliance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

China and Russia appear to be referring here to Pyongyang’s continued suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests, which are prohibited by previous Security Council resolutions. The draft resolution’s introductory language notes that North Korea has refrained from nuclear tests since September 2017 and began a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing in April 2018.

But Pyongyang is prohibited from all ballistic missile and nuclear weapons-related activities, including uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, which produce fissile material that can be used for nuclear weapons. Although not acknowledged in the proposed resolution, North Korea recently tested several shorter-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, satellite imagery suggests it is continuing to enrich and reprocess.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations issued a statement on Nov. 2 saying that North Korea has “taken no steps to comply with the Security Council's demands regarding its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

The draft resolution also notes the “positive outcomes achieved in recent years” in talks between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States.

Specifically, the 2021 draft resolution calls for lifting sanctions that prevent the transport of industrial machinery used for infrastructure that “cannot be diverted to [North Korea’s] nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.” It says that sanctions shall not apply to “items necessary for carrying out humanitarian activities.” The resolution would also exempt from sanctions inter-Korean projects designed to connect the two countries via road and rail.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed interest in sanctions relief for such projects during a series of summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 and 2019. In November 2018, the UN Security Council said a study to connect North and South Korea via rail could go ahead without being subject to sanctions after U.S. concerns delayed the project.

China and Russia made a similar proposal to lift certain UN sanctions in 2019, but did not pursue a vote. The United States opposed the proposal then as well.

China and Russia reportedly are also shielding North Korea from further Security Council condemnation in response to recent ballistic missile tests.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, pictured in September, told an Oct. 20 press conference that the UN needs to be “more serious about the implementation” of the sanctions on North Korea.  (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)During an Oct. 1 meeting, France proposed that the Security Council adopt a joint statement condemning recent North Korean missile tests, but Russia and China opposed the measure. Several council members ended up issuing their own statements instead.

Similarly, a Security Council meeting on Oct. 20 called by the United States and the United Kingdom in response to North Korea testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile the day before also failed to produce a statement.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, called North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests a “series of reckless provocations” that violate multiple Security Council resolutions. She told an Oct. 20 press conference that the UN needs to be “more serious about the implementation” of the sanctions on North Korea.

China and Russia are pushing the UN Security Council to lift certain sanctions on North Korea in recognition of steps Pyongyang has taken to denuclearize and to encourage further negotiations.

Iran’s Failure to Cooperate with the IAEA is Raising Tensions

Iran’s refusal to allow inspectors to access a site in Iran where centrifuge components are produced is escalating tensions ahead of the resumption of talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) most recent report on Iran’s nuclear activities, finalized Nov. 17, inspectors tried twice in October to access the Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing facility to install new cameras and/or confirm that production of parts had not resumed. On both occasions, Iran refused to allow the...

The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Executive Summary · Report Overview · Resources · Country List
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism
Missile Technology Control Regime
Proliferation Security Initiative
Nuclear Suppliers Group
Global Partnership

The Global Partnership was formed in 2002 as a Group of Eight (G8) initiative to address “nonproliferation disarmament, counterterrorism, and nuclear safety issues,” after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The initial priorities were focused on Russia and built on the original cooperative threat reduction programs that began after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Global Partnership initial priorities carried over from these programs and included destroying chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines that were decommissioned, fissile material disposition, and engagement with scientists that worked on weapons programs.

When formed in 2002, Global Partnership states pledged 20 billion over 10 years to fund work in these areas in the former Soviet Union. Half of the funding was pledged by the United States. Unlike other initiatives, the Global Partnership serves as a funding initiative that brings resources to bear on specific issues related to counter WMD-proliferation efforts.

At the May 2011 G8 meeting in France the members decided to extend the partnership beyond the original 10-year mandate, expand the priorities, and work on projects outside of the former Soviet Union. The Global Partnership laid the foundation for expanding the scope of work in 2008 at the Hokkaido summit, which recognized that since the risk of WMDs exist worldwide, the partnership will address these issues in “areas where the risks of terrorism and proliferation are greatest.”

To facilitate the expansion in 2012, the Global Partnership formed working groups to target different WMD areas, including biological security, chemical weapons security, implementation of UN Resolution 1540, nuclear and radiological security, membership expansion, and centers of excellence. Projects also extend beyond the Global Partnership’s initial focus on states of the former Soviet Union and often entail partnering with other international organizations to advance common priorities. The global partnership utilizes as ‘matchmaking’ mechanism to pair project requests with donor funding and/or expertise.

The chair of the Global Partnership rotates on a yearly basis on the same schedule as the G8 (now G7 after Russia’s expulsion in 2014). The chair sets the priorities for the year and traditionally complies a yearly report on the partnership’s activities. The Global Partnership is not limited to G7 countries, and is now comprised of 29 states. Membership is extended by invitation.


  • Expand Membership: Given the new areas of focus of the Global Partnership, the initiative should target states that could potentially benefit from or contribute to the Global Partnership expanded agenda. In particular, the Global Partnership should look to invite countries from Africa and Latin American to broaden the geographic scope of participation.
  • Consider Strategic Plans for Working Groups: Given that the chair of the Global Partnership changes every year, a strategic plan that maps out long term priorities might help provide direction to the group’s activities. The initial limited focus on former Soviet areas dissipated after the extension sustained over a nearly a decade make considerable achievements in a core set of issues. While a geographic focus may no longer fit within the Global Partnership’s programming, thematic, goal-oriented strategic plans for the working groups could ensure greater continuity between chair rotations and more systemically address challenges.
  • Evaluate Matchmaking Projects: Matchmaking will likely continue to be an integral part of the Global Partnership. Having operated under this structure for the past several years, the Global Partnership might benefit from an assessment of past projects to guide best practices for future matchmaking projects. Such an evolution might lead to a more efficient allocation of resources.
  • Collaborate with Initiatives like PSI and GICNT: Both PSI and the GICNT create opportunities for member states to review national capacities. The Global Partnership could provide funds or matching services for states that want to enhance their application of legal instruments, require legal assistance to ensure that domestic laws and regulations meet international requirements, or plug technical gaps in areas such as detection architecture. This could be utilized for a range of issues including application of UNSCR 1540 obligations, the CPPNM 2005 Amendment, the SUA Protocol, implementation of Security Council Resolutions on North Korea, or enhancing national forensics labs.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group

Executive Summary · Report Overview · Resources · Country List
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism
Missile Technology Control Regime
Proliferation Security Initiative
Nuclear Suppliers Group
Global Partnership

Formalized in 1978 as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the NSG began as meeting of nuclear-supplier states (Canada, France, Japan, West Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States) in 1975 to coordinate stricter regulations on civilian nuclear trade and dual use technologies. The prior year, in 1974, the states identified trigger list of nuclear materials, technologies, and relevant equipment for developing nuclear weapons.

The NSG expanded the original 1974 list, which was consistent with NPT restrictions, to include access to reprocessing and enrichment technologies – the means for creating the fissile material for nuclear warheads. The NSG guidelines also prohibit the third-party transfer of nuclear-related exports and required IAEA safeguards on facilities as a prerequisite for imports. The NSG guidelines are non-binding, but the member states did submit the guidelines to the IAEA in 1978. The guidelines became an IAEA document known as INFICIRC/254.

Members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Malta is also a member of the NSG, but does not appear on the map.


The Guidelines are comprised of two parts, each of which was created in response to a significant proliferation event that highlighted shortcomings in then-existing export control systems. Part I lists materials and technology designed specifically for nuclear use. These include fissile materials, nuclear reactors and equipment, and reprocessing and enrichment equipment. Part II identifies dual-use goods, which are non-nuclear items with legitimate civilian applications that can also be used to develop weapons. NSG members were motivated to adopt Part II in 1992 after discovering how close Iraq came to realizing its nuclear weapons ambitions by illicitly employing dual-use imports in a covert nuclear weapons program before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

NSG states are expected to refrain from making exports identical or similar to those denied by other members. States are also suppose to notify other members when they deny an export.

At a May 2004 meeting, NSG members adopted a “catch-all” mechanism, which authorizes members to block any export suspected to be destined to a nuclear weapons program even if the export does not appear on one of the control lists. In 2010 the group revised its guidelines on the transfer for enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Prior to the revision, states were to “exercise restraint” when exporting these technologies. The agreed upon text includes criterial to be considered when deciding and export. Members also agreed to authorize exports of enrichment and reprocessing technologies only if the recipient has an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement in place or a safeguards agreement plus regional accounting and control measures.

States can apply for membership, and new states are accepted on a consensus basis. There is no formal set of criteria that a state must meet prior to bidding for membership. Member states supply materials and technologies covered by the NSG guidelines, commit to adhere to the guidelines, enforce export controls domestically, and are in compliance with the obligations of international nuclear non-proliferation treaties, like the NPT and treaties establishing nuclear-weapon free zones. States also commit to support international efforts to prevent the proliferation of WMDs.

The NSG currently is comprised of 48 members.


  • Adopt Membership Criteria Consistent with International Standards:The NSG could adopt a set of criteria that members must meet in order to apply for admission. That criteria should be based on established norms against nuclear testing and proliferation and supportive of disarmament efforts, export controls, and nuclear security practices.
  • Expand Notifications:Under current NSG guidelines, states are encouraged to notify other members when a request is denied. States are also encouraged to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, states are not required to provide notifications of approval. Provision of this information could help member states identify patterns of technology and material acquisition that may be indicative of illicit nuclear activity. Approvals and denials could also be reported systematically to the IAEA, rather than on an ad-hoc basis by participating states.
  • Lifetime Fuel Supply Guidelines:Members that supply nuclear power reactors should consider life-time fuel supply guarantees for reactors sold to countries without enrichment capabilities. Exporting countries should also commit to take back spent fuel for disposition. These steps would remove the justification for countries to pursue domestic enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.
  • Adopt the Additional Protocol as a Precondition for Sale:The NSG guidelines call for IAEA safeguards as a prerequisite for sales of controlled items. The NSG could strengthen the guidelines to require that countries have an additional protocol in place. Expanded IAEA access to information and facilities will help ensure that nuclear programs are peaceful.
  • Coordination with the MTCR:The NSG could share information with the MTCR about denied exports. Coordination between the two bodies could increase the chances of identifying patterns in proliferation behavior or systemic attempts to circumvent export controls.

Proliferation Security Initiative

Executive Summary · Report Overview · Resources · Country List
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism
Missile Technology Control Regime
Proliferation Security Initiative
Nuclear Suppliers Group
Global Partnership

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was launched in 2003 as a voluntary initiative designed to disrupt and interdict WMD-related materials, technologies, and means of delivery in transit. The United States led efforts to establish PSI, in part due to the 2002 U.S. National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, which identified strengthening interdictions as an area of focus, and a failed attempt later that year to interdict North Korean scud missiles bound for Yemen on flagless ship.
The United States, along with ten like-minded countries, met several times in 2003 to craft PSI’s Statement of Principles. The final draft, released in September 2003, did not create law or a new organization. Rather, in ascribing to the Statement of Principles, participating states agree to use existing national laws and international authorities to undertake measures unilaterally or in cooperation with other states to interdict suspected proliferation transfers and streamline procedures for sharing information about potential proliferation related shipments with other states.

Members of the Proliferation Security Initiative. A number of countries participate in this initiative that do not appear on the map. These countries are: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Brunei Darussalam, Dominica, Liechtenstein, Malta, Marshall Islands, San Marino, Singapore, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The PSI is primarily intended to encourage participating countries to take greater advantage of their own existing national laws to intercept threatening trade passing through territories where they have jurisdiction to act. It also focuses on implementation of existing international and domestic legal authorities. The PSI member states are also encouraged to expand their legal authority to interdict shipments by signing bilateral boarding agreements with select countries to secure expedited processes or pre-approval for stopping and searching their ships at sea. In addition to interdicting transfers of proliferation concern, the statement of principles commits states to strengthening national authorities to facilitate interdictions and exchanging information with other states regarding suspect shipments.
PSI members do not meet on a regular basis.The PSI held a high-level meeting at the 10th anniversary in 2013, and a mid-level political meeting in Washington, DC in January 2016. Outside of these events, the Operational Experts Group (OEG), which is comprised of 21 member states, meets periodically to plan exercises, discuss recent activities and interdictions, and share relevant information.
PSI has 105 subscribing states. Membership is open to any member state that endorses the principles. While PSI membership has expanded dramatically, exercises and activities are disproportionately hosted by the original 11 states. The United States, for instance, hosted 11 of the 40 exercises that took place during the first six years of the initiative.


  • Expand Membership: Key states remain outside of PSI. Several of these countries, such as China and Pakistan are known to have supplied technologies for WMD and/or ballistic missile programs in the past. Others key states outside of the regime such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, and South Africa, have important roles as regional leaders or in shipping. Targeting countries with flags of convenience, like Gibraltar, Comoros, and Bremuda, for membership in PSI would also be an important step forward in strengthening the regime.
  • Strengthen National Authorities: States should be encouraged to ratify the 2005 protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention), which allows ships to be boarded, with consent of the flag state, if they are suspected of carrying illicit cargo. Ratification strengthens the legal basis for interdictions, and only 33 countries have acted on 2005 protocol. PSI could encourage members with capacity to help states review and update national authorities to align with international standards.
  • Prioritize Regional Exercises Based on Proliferation Trends: Proliferation risks and illicit trafficking routes vary regionally and by state. Looking toward regionally-focused workshops and exercises driven by a needs-based assessment of domestic capabilities can help target key areas of concern. In 2005, PSI participants began examining steps necessary to develop and share analyses of key proliferation actors, networks, and financing structures. Expanding these analyses from the state level to regional level could help inform exercises.
  • Expand the OEG: Currently the 21-members that comprise the OEG are largely European and North American countries. Argentina is the only South American representative and there are no African countries in the group. Greater geographic diversity could contribute to a more regionally specific exercises and activities. Ratification of the SUA protocol could be a requirement for OEG membership, which would also reinforce and strengthen that convention.
  • Enhance enforcement of and reporting on relevant treaties and obligations: PSI could require all participating countries to enforce relevant UN Security Council resolutions related to preventing WMD-proliferation, such as UNSCR 1540 and restrictions on North Korea. While, as members of the UN, these are binding obligations, a number of countries, including PSI member states, have not reported on implementation of relevant Security Council sanctions measures.
  • Consider a UN Security Council Resolution on Interdictions: Originally the United States encouraged the inclusion of explicit interdiction authority in UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004). At that time some Security Council members opposed the inclusion of interdiction measures and it was eventually dropped. A separate resolution, with clear interdiction authorities, could combat concerns amongst states that are squeamish about the legality of interdictions under international law.
  • Secure dedicated funding: In some countries, including the United States, PSI does not have dedicated funding in the budget to support its activities. Dedicated funding could help ensure continuity of activities and also provide reimbursement for states that detain and interdict vessels to ensure that the cost of compliance with PSI is not overly burdensome.

North Korea Signals Interest in Talks

November 2021
By Kelsey Davenport

Recent statements by North Korea suggest that Pyongyang may be interested in restarting peace talks with South Korea despite a recent spate of missile tests.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim (L) speaks to reporters outside of the State Department in Washington on October 18 as his South Korean counterpart, Noh Kyu-duk (R), looks on. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)In a Sept. 24 statement, Kim Yo Jong, vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, said that both North and South Korea want to recover “inter-Korean relations from a deadlock” and to achieve “peaceful stability as soon as possible.”

Kim, who is the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said that if both sides show respect, “several issues for improving relations,” such as reestablishing the joint North-South liaison office, holding another summit, and declaring an end to the 1950–1953 Korean War, can “see meaningful and successful solution.”

Following Kim Yo Jong’s comments, North Korea on Oct. 5 restored its hotlines and other communications with South Korea. North and South Korea resumed using the hotlines in August after a hiatus, but Pyongyang cut off communications again shortly afterward. (See ACT, September 2021.)

Kim Jong Un said on Sept. 29 that resuming communication with South Korea is part of the effort to rehabilitate inter-Korean relations and pursue “lasting peace” on the Korean peninsula. He said Pyongyang has “no purpose or reason to provoke South Korea” and encouraged Seoul to “get out of the wild dream that it must deter North Korea’s provocations.”

In an Oct. 4 statement, the South Korean Unification Ministry said that restoring the lines of communication with North Korea provides a “foundation for recovering inter-Korean relations” and expressed hope that the two countries will “swiftly resume dialogue.”

Pursing a formal end-of-war declaration seems a particular focus for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will leave office next year. In his Sept. 21 speech to the UN General Assembly, Moon said he believed that ending the Korean War could lead to “irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era of complete peace.”

In a Sept. 24 statement on state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korean Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Thae Song said that such a declaration would be “premature” and that there is no indication that ending the war would “lead to the withdrawal of the hostile policy” toward North Korea. But Kim Jo Yong’s comments suggest that an end-of-war declaration may still be an option.

Meanwhile, Robert Carlin, a visiting scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and a former senior policy adviser to the special U.S. envoy for talks with North Korea, observed that North Korea may be shifting the terminology it uses for describing military dynamics on the peninsula. In an Oct. 5 commentary for 38 North, Carlin said that recent statements from North Korea “reintroduced the concept of ‘balance’ and eased off references to ‘deterrence’ in its discussions of military power.”

He said that an early, partial manifestation of this new policy “seems reflected in [North Korea’s] recent, positive stance (and actions) on inter-Korean dialogue.” He also noted that a similar shift in terminology from deterrence to balancing power occurred in 2017. At that time, North Korea was accelerating missile development while signaling it was open to diplomacy with South Korea.

The United States welcomed the restoration of North-South communications. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in an Oct. 4 press briefing that the United States supports “inter-Korean dialogue and engagement as well as cooperation.” The United States will “continue to consult closely” with its allies regarding how best to engage with North Korea to achieve shared goals, he added.

Progress on inter-Korean relations in 2017 and early 2018 paved the way for diplomacy between the United States and North Korea.

The Biden administration has made clear for several months that it is willing to start talks with North Korea without preconditions and to engage in an incremental process that builds on the 2018 Singapore summit declaration. That declaration, signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, called for a transformation of U.S.-North Korean relations, including denuclearization and peace-building on the Korean peninsula.

Although U.S. officials have declined to discuss publicly what Washington is willing to offer North Korea in the first steps of a negotiation, Price said on Oct. 4 that the United States has made “specific proposals” to North Korea and hopes Pyongyang “will respond positively to our outreach.”


Recent statements by North Korea suggest Pyongyang may be interested in restarting talks with South Korea despite a recent spate of missile tests.

IAEA Chief Supports Iran Censure

November 2021

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voiced support for censuring Iran during the agency’s Board of Governors meeting in November, although he acknowledged that the situation could change as the agency works to resolve the “most immediate challenges” with Iran.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi spoke at an Oct. 21 event hosted by the Stimson Center during his trip to Washington to meet Biden administration officials and members of Congress. He said the trip came at a “difficult juncture” in the IAEA efforts to monitor Iran’s nuclear program and hoped he would travel to Tehran soon to discuss these issues.

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom considered pursuing a resolution censuring Iran for failing to cooperate with IAEA requests at the September Board of Governors meeting, but suspended the effort after Grossi reached an agreement with Tehran to stave off a monitoring crisis. (See ACT, October 2021.)

That Sept. 12 agreement allowed inspectors to service remote surveillance cameras at sites that inspectors have not accessed since February, when Iran reduced compliance with agency monitoring. (See ACT, March 2021.) But Iran blocked inspectors from installing new cameras at a centrifuge component manufacturing site at Karaj during an IAEA visit to the site on Sept. 26. Iran removed the surveillance equipment from that facility after the equipment was sabotaged in June and said the Sept. 12 agreement does not cover that location.

Grossi told The Washington Post on Oct. 20 that if the monitoring dispute and other issues are not resolved, it will be “extremely difficult” to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Although he said the IAEA is not a “main actor” in efforts to restore the JCPOA, the agency is an “essential element,” given its verification role. He said on Oct. 21 that the IAEA is doing what it can to ensure a baseline of information about Iran’s nuclear program, which is “indispensable” for any future negotiation.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Grossi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed during their Oct. 19 meeting “the need for Iran to meet its nuclear verification obligations and commitments, cease its nuclear provocations, and return to the diplomacy it says it seeks.”

Several members of Congress, including Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, were more explicit in supporting censure. After meeting Grossi on Oct. 19, Risch called for “strong U.S. leadership in seeking accountability for Iran’s nuclear activities and pressuring Iran to fulfill its obligations to the international community.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in September that action by the IAEA board would negatively impact negotiations to restore the JCPOA.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

IAEA Chief Supports Iran Censure


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