Of all the threats to international security, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses one of the greatest. Recent interest by the likes of al-Qaida in acquiring and using such weapons adds a new, horrific dimension to the spectre of mass murder by rogue countries or terrorists.
The gravity of this threat calls for fresh thinking and decisive action, for new practical measures to stop this noxious trade.
Australia is proud to be a key driver of the PSI, a practical and informal arrangement among countries to cooperate with each other, as necessary, in intercepting and disrupting illicit WMD trade, their delivery systems and related materials. We have hosted two PSI meetings, led the PSI's first and highly successful interdiction exercise in October 2003, 'Operation Pacific Protector', and plan to lead a second exercise in 2006.
In just two years since it was announced by President Bush, the PSI has rapidly built up its operational strength and has garnered the support of more than 60 countries. In September 2003, participants agreed on a Statement of Interdiction Principles which sets out the core objectives and methods of the initiative and commits participants to conduct interdictions within international and domestic law. Since then, fourteen exercises have been held in Europe, Asia and North America, each time led by a different country. Fourteen more exercises are scheduled through to the end of 2006.
The PSI has scored significant successes in stopping proliferators in their tracks. In October 2003, for example, a group of nations worked together to stop the BBC China and found an illegal cargo of centrifuge parts for uranium enrichment destined for Libya. Soon after, the Libyan Government agreed to end its weapons of mass destruction programs. Libya's historic decision to forsake WMD shows that firm action against WMD proliferation achieves results.
Australia will continue to work with others through the PSI to send a clear message that WMD proliferation must stop.