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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The New Agreement for the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC)

Simon Limage
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs , Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation

Washington, DC
June 30, 2015




3:30 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MR LIMAGE:  Good afternoon.  Thank you for joining me here at the Foreign Press Center.  As was mentioned, I’m here chiefly to speak about the International Science and Technology Center, but before I get into some of the details related to what I think is a very great example of the international work that the United States does with a number of partners, including countries that are represented here around the table, I wanted to say a few things about the State Department’s nonproliferation mission.

The Department of State has a long and storied tradition of working on robust, global engagement on nonproliferation issues.  That engagement continues today as we work closely with our partners throughout the interagency to ensure that the United States Government is in an integrated approach across all agencies. 

So I oversee the State Department’s nonproliferation assistance as it relates to dealing with chemical, biological, and nuclear threats.  But I work very closely with the Department of Defense and the department of agents – and the Department of Energy as well as several other agencies.

It’s our mission to lead efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, their related materials and delivery systems, and advanced conventional weapons.  So it’s a very big job that the international community works together on.  There’s a fundamental United Nations Security Council resolution that all your governments are supportive of and have signed on to – UN Security Council Resolution 1540 – that codifies all the different areas that contribute to activity to stem the flow of weapons of mass destruction.  And so it’s a pleasure to work on some of those elements.

Under the umbrella of cooperative threat reduction, the United States is pleased to support and partner with the countries of the International Science and Technology Center.  This multilateral, intergovernmental, and international organization is better equipped now than ever to mitigate 21st century global threats.  When I mention the ISTC – I’ll refer to the International Science and Technology Center as the ISTC – I’m referring to a specific type of work on nonproliferation that has to do with the human element of proliferation.  In other words, the expertise that exists around the world for dual-use science – so expertise that can be used both for important civilian pursuits, but at the same time to develop weapons programs.  And there’s an interest internationally in dealing with that expertise and ensuring that it is not used for nefarious purposes.

Now the foremost institution that deals with this particular mission is the ISTC, and last week I was pleased to be in Astana in Kazakhstan to initial the new agreement of the – continuing the ISTC, which has now moved its headquarters from Moscow to Astana.  And it is going to continue its very important work from Astana with a number of key partners.

This particular agreement that we initialed, which still needs to be signed – we hope to sign it in December – is the result of over three years of intensive work by the ISTC parties, including the Government of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, and a number of other countries that are members.  Since its creation in 1994, the ISTC has supported some 700 projects worth almost $1 billion in the former Soviet Union.  Projects have focused on biological, chemical, and nuclear nonproliferation, and been both bilateral and regional in nature. 

Changes in the ISTC membership have required the organization to find a new home to continue the center’s work.  In keeping with its commitment to nonproliferation and global security, the Government of Kazakhstan answered the call for a new host state.  We are fortunate the ISTC will have a home in a nation that has been very committed to the center and advancing our shared nonproliferation agenda.

The work of the ISTC is as important as it was when it was founded 20 years ago.  Weapons of mass destruction remain a real threat to our shared security.  Advances in science, as you can imagine, and increasing interest form terrorists make this an issue that transcends the state-to-state model that once prevailed.  Fortunately, the ISTC’s multilateral nature and flexibility make it an instrumental tool in mitigating those emerging threats. 

The continuing agreement, which will facilitate the future work of the ISTC, based at Nazarbayev University in Astana.  Thanks are also due to the staff of the ISTC that have worked to transform the ISTC into a new center for nonproliferation science and technology.  I look forward, as I have in the past, to working with the current members of the ISTC to sign the agreement, but also to expanding the organization to new countries beyond its current membership. 

Moving from the ISTC, I wanted to say a few words that’ll be of interest to you and to the countries that you’re from, with which we partner very closely.  Another program that the State Department sponsors globally is our counter nuclear smuggling activity.  The nonproliferation bureau that I work for is involved in strengthening international capabilities to counter the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radiological materials.  Real cases of nuclear smuggling indicate that additional materials may be still available in illegal circulation.  For example, specifically cases of weapon-usable nuclear material seized in Moldova in 2011, in Georgia in 2010, underscore the need for strengthened international cooperation to detect nuclear smuggling networks and secure trafficked materials. 

To that end, the ISN bureau’s Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism has forged strong partnerships with a number of countries through bilateral joint action plans which outlines areas where we can work together to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear smuggling.  Through this work the United States is carrying out a number of projects to improve counter nuclear smuggling capabilities, especially by promoting strengthened coordination and training among law enforcement and technical experts.  Law enforcement in many of the countries represented at the table and in some of the countries we work with have a very important role in going after these networks of smugglers.

For example, we are working closely with the Government of Kazakhstan to support its efforts to develop a training curriculum on countering nuclear trafficking for an institute it has created called the Nuclear Security Training Center in Ala-Tau.  This curriculum will be focused on raising awareness among frontline law enforcement officers about the threat of nuclear trafficking and methods to effectively detect, interdict, and secure material outside of regulatory control.  While this specific cooperation is more recent, we signed an agreement to work on these issues with Kazakhstan in 2006. 

I was also in Ukraine last week, where I led discussions with the Ukrainian Government to review our cooperation on this same issue of counter nuclear smuggling based on an agreement that we have with the Ukrainian Government that dates back to 2006.  Over the years, Ukraine has strengthened its ability to also detect and respond to nuclear smuggling at dozens of border crossings and other ports of entry – partly with U.S. support, partly using its own resources. 

I know we have some colleagues – or a colleague here from Armenia.  I wanted to mention, for example, the United States and Armenia signed a counter nuclear smuggling joint action plan in July of 2008 which identified a range of steps Armenia could take to improve its ability to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear and radiological smuggling.  Armenia has made significant progress in this area, including in border security, radiological security, regulatory and legal development and nuclear forensics.  We continue to work with Armenia in all these areas.

I understand we also have a colleague from Georgia.  The United States and Armenia* signed a counter nuclear smuggling joint action plan in February of 2007 which also identified a number of areas where Georgia could work with the United States on developing its ability to deal with this problem.  Furthermore, we are committed to working with the Government of Georgia, which has been an excellent partner in this area.

Finally, let me close with the area of border security.  There are a number of U.S. agencies that work on augmenting border security capabilities in several countries.  As I mentioned at the outset, I focus fairly narrowly on nonproliferation, not every aspect of border security.  But the U.S. State Department has a program called the Export Control and Related Border Security Program, which provides assistance to over 60 countries in developing their export control and border security capabilities.  The EXBS Program, as it is known, draws on the expertise of U.S. Government agencies, foreign government experts, the private sector, and the academic community to organize over 200 specialized capacity-building activities to improve export controls and border security in several areas – first, in the development of comprehensive legal regulatory frameworks to regulate trade in proliferation-sensitive dual-use items, and enforce these laws.  In very simple terms, we worry about and work with partner countries to regulate the proliferation of high-end material that could be used both for civilian commercial purposes and to increase commerce and the benefits from commerce, but could also be used as components for dangerous weapons.  And so we work with many countries to make sure that they have a legal system in place and the processes and protocols to identify those materials and to prevent them from being – from transiting their country.

We’ve worked closely, for example, in Tajikistan to develop a new law to control these items.  We worked in 2014 to support the passage of a similar law in Serbia.  EXBS is currently working, for example, with Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Mongolia, and the Philippines on the development of their draft strategic trade control legislation.  For example, in the ASEAN region, two countries have developed strategic trade control laws – Singapore and Malaysia – and we are very hopeful that other countries, including the Philippines, will be able to develop this legislation and conclude and implement such legislation.

Second, the establishment of effective licensing procedures and practices that apply to export, transit, trans-shipment, brokering, and financial transactions involving controlled goods are also a goal of ours.  In June 2014, for example, this program supported a steady visit for the Thai licensing officials to South Korea.  And I know we have some friends from South Korea here today to learn more about the Republic of Korea’s licensing system, called Yestrade.  Such exchanges promote regional harmonization of strategic trade control best practices and facilitate development of peer-to-peer networks among nonproliferation practitioners.

Third, the EXBS program supports activities that bolster partner governments’ outreach to their strategic industry sectors, including exporters, freight forwarders, and shippers.  For example, in 2014 the State Department facilitated a two-day outreach workshop with Armenian industry and government to discuss proliferation risks facing Armenia and illustrate the need for and value of internal compliance best practices for Armenian exporters of dual-use goods.  The event resulted in the Armenian ministry of economy’s policy guidance on internal compliance programs to be published this year.

Fourth, strengthening enforcement at and between points of entry on the border.  The EXBS program provides training on detection, inspection, interdiction, and disposal of controlled items, as well as the investigation and prosecution of violations.  EXBS also donates state-of-the-art detection and equipment to partner governments.  For example, as many of you may know, EXBS is strengthening the capacity of Syria’s neighbors to stop illicit transfers by training frontline border security officials to identify dual-use weapons of mass destruction components in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.  In this area, we work closely with international organizations such as the World Customs Organization to encourage adoption of better enforcement practices, including automated advanced manifest data collection and automatic targeting.  It’s important for me to mention that these are not simply bilateral programs; we work to universalize this approach to strategic trade controls and there are international organizations that are very much focused on this mission.

Finally, as with all issues that face our governments, we support a better interagency cooperation, information-sharing, and international collaboration among partner nations.  We held – the State Department hosted – or held an international export control conference in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in March of 2014.  The event brought together 313 participants from 74 countries.  To illustrate the benefits of international cooperation, EXBS joins efforts with other international donors.  For example, I mentioned Georgia.  Georgia’s 2014 law on the control of military and dual-use products is the result of a five-year joint effort between EXBS and the European Union’s outreach program on dual-use goods.  EXBS assistance helps provide improved decision-making on dual-use transfer requests, harmonization of national export control systems of international standards, and a reduction in the risk of illicit trade and trafficking. 

The impact of EXBS assistance is evident since 2004.  The UN Security Council’s 1540 Committee has issued several reports documenting measures taken by states to implement their export control obligations.  It has found that many authorities have established or altered their export control systems to reflect their obligations under 1540.  There are many partners of the United States and of the State Department specifically who have improved their systems, including Armenia, Georgia, India, Jordan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, Serbia, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Let me stop here.  I’ve covered a wide range of ground going for – starting with the work that we’ve done to address the potential risk posed by dual-use expertise on the human capital side, as I would describe it.  I’ve also talked about a specific program aimed at reducing the threat posed by nuclear material smuggling.  And third, I talked a little bit about border security in a specialized area.  The U.S. Government collectively works on a number of additional related areas to do with nuclear security, biological security, and chemical security, and I’m happy to get into those a little bit as well. 

But let me stop here and turn it back to --

MODERATOR:  As we move to the Q&A portion of the event, I’d ask folks to please state your name and publication, and also we’re going to try and give – go around the table and give every country and outlet a chance to get a question before we take multiple questions from the same journalist.  So who has our – we’ll go right here. 

QUESTION:  My name is [Koya] Ozeki.  I work for Japan’s Yomiuri.  As far as ISTC is concerned – I am ashamed how little I know about this issue, but --

MR LIMAGE:  Few people do.

QUESTION:  Right.  (Laughter.)  Wasn’t it – in the first point, wasn’t it because of the Russian withdrawal that you have to come up with a new agreement?  Why – what’s the Russians’ claim?  Why do they claim that they are dropping out of this agreement?  And what’s the impact and what are the concerns?

MR LIMAGE:  It’s an excellent question and a very common question.  I’d start by saying that the ISTC has had a very strong partnership with Russian scientists and, more broadly, scientists throughout the former Soviet Union since the mid-90s when there was a strong sense of collaboration on addressing the threat posed by the proliferation of this dual-use expertise. 

The United States, and I dare say the other members of the governing board of the ISTC, had hoped and continue to hope that Russia would remain a part of the ISTC and contribute to working on problems of an international nature.  The ISTC, as I mentioned, is an international organization with a number of countries that fund projects aimed at developing strong science and encouraging good partnerships with a number of institutes throughout the region.  I, and I think my colleagues in the ISTC, were disappointed to get the news that the Russian Government had decided to leave the ISTC. 

I believe there is a difference of opinion that is clear between Russian scientists and some of the technical experts that we work with in Russia and the Russian Government itself.  And I believe, from some of the informal conversations that I have had and others of my international colleagues have had, is that if they’d had a choice, a number of those Russian institutes, institutions, and scientists would have preferred to stay involved as members of the ISTC.  Unfortunately – we respect the decision of the Russian Government to leave.  I would refer you to the Russian ministry of foreign affairs for any comments that they may have on the Russian decision.  But as of the middle of July, Russia will effectively have left the ISTC. 

As the United States representative to the ISTC governing board, I have said and will continue to say that Russia is welcome to rejoin at some time in the future.  The ISTC is not a political organization.  It’s a technical organization aimed at improving national security.  And the ISTC and Russian scientists have benefitted from that partnership and we can only express our disappointment that Russia has left at this point.

QUESTION:  What’s the impact?  Why are you disappointed?

MR LIMAGE:  Because, as I mentioned, there are a lot of Russian scientists that were pursuing important work with the ISTC – I think both to their benefit because they were part of a broader network that exposed them to science, scientific practices, and expertise from the other members of the ISTC.  My fear is that the Russian Government’s departure from the ISTC further isolates what is a very significant and important community of experts who have a lot to offer to their neighbors and to some of the other members of the ISTC like Japan, like Korea, like the United States, like Tajikistan, like the European Union, that are all members.  So Russia obviously has significant expertise, and for it to leave the organization is disappointing.

Now, it isn’t changing the course of the ISTC.  The ISTC has effectively now moved to Kazakhstan; its headquarters have moved.  We are looking to acquire new partners and to engage new countries and look forward to them joining the ISTC.  And as I said, at a future date we would welcome Russia rejoining the ISTC if it decided to do so.

MODERATOR:  We’ll go to --

QUESTION:  Hi, from Kazakhstan.  Zhiger Sarsenov, (inaudible) Channel Khabar of Kazakhstan.  As you know, Nazarbayev University in Astana was named a new ISTC office location.  What does – how does the United States to continue cooperation with Kazakh Government?  What do you think about it?

MR LIMAGE:  Well, let me start by just expressing my great appreciation for the Government of Kazakhstan’s decision to host the headquarters of the ISTC.  I’ve had a number of opportunities to speak to the Kazakh Government representative to the ISTC and also in the different ministries that are active in the ISTC.  The science ministry, the ministry of foreign affairs has been very active.  I’ve met with the Kazakh ambassador to the United States.  And it was a very important decision that the Government of Kazakhstan made to host the ISTC.

I’m also very pleased that Nazarbayev University was identified as a specific location to host the ISTC because Nazarbayev University has a very important role in promoting the development and scientific progress of Kazakhstan and some of the evolution that Kazakhstan is going through.  And so for us to have an organization that’s focused on the future, to be hosted at Nazarbayev University, is a beautiful set of circumstances.

We have a number of additional steps to take.  All the countries that are members of the ISTC still need to sign the ISTC framework agreement.  We hope to be able to do that in December at a follow-on governing board meeting which will be held in Astana as well.  And we are just very supportive of moving that process forward.

I would also mention that Kazakhstan and other members of the ISTC have benefited from the cooperation with the ISTC, both from a scientific perspective from – but from an economic perspective as well.  The United States and other countries have provided grants to scientists from the different members of the ISTC.  And for Kazakhstan specifically, it has received over $36 million in assistance through projects funded in the ISTC since the beginning of the creation of the ISTC.  Other examples include Armenia, where some $28 million have been spent on scientific grants.  In Kazakhstan, I’m told that over 4,700 scientists have worked with the ISTC, which is a very large number, since the mid ‘90s. 

I’ll give an example:  In Georgia, over 2,000 scientists have worked with the ISTC since its creation; in Tajikistan, a little less, 626; in Kyrgyzstan, a little over 1,300.  So it is a very large community of experts that we work with and hope to broaden that community.

QUESTION:  One more question?

MR LIMAGE:  Please.

QUESTION:  And second, almost 200 projects have been (inaudible) benefit Kazakhstan’s scientists.  What about this year?  What do you think of -- 

MR LIMAGE:  So this year, the United States announced two new projects for Kazakhstan.  A number of other projects are being funded.  I was pleased to announce those projects at the governing board meeting in Astana last week.  We continue to want to partner with Kazakhstan institutes.  There are many institutes that we work with including – I’ll just give you a couple examples – the National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Institute of Nuclear Physics.  And we lead – we’ve worked on a number of areas from nuclear security to biological security and a lot of areas in between.  So we see a bright future and the potential for additional work going forward.

QUESTION:  Xueke Tian from Science and Technology Daily, a Chinese newspaper.

MR LIMAGE:  Hi.

QUESTION:  I had a question simple.  It’s – I just wonder what kind of priority field, research field, is by the new IT – sorry, ISTC?  And which country could be the main donor countries this organization?

MR LIMAGE:  Thank you for the question.  The ISTC is going through a period of transition.  Its focus initially, as I mentioned, was on some of the – on the former weapons scientists and on very basic research and development in science and technology in the early years.

What we have noticed is that the scientists that we work with from all the countries in Central Asia and beyond have adapted their focus to current national security challenges, but broaden the types of projects that they work on to areas of health, environmental, safety, global warming, and a number of areas.

I’ll give you one example:  The Government of Japan funded a project to look at the impact of Fukushima and some of the damage caused by that unfortunate incident.  But to me, that’s an important example of an organization created a fairly long time ago adjusting itself to dealing with current problems today and funding scientists from some of these countries looking at problems that exist in their countries.

So for example, in Tajikistan, where there is a very deadly health legacy related to nuclear testing in the former Soviet Union and there remains uranium tailings and environmental damage, there have been projects to assess some of the health effects and the cleanup that one can do or that is being done of the uranium tailings.  So there’s a broad range of science and expertise that is being brought to bear, and a new set of ideas that are being fostered.

The ISTC, I should also mention, has a mechanism to assess the scientific projects.  So we don’t just fund anything, any – not every project has merit.  It is also based on the resources we have available.  But we try to focus the scientific projects and the grants on current and important scientific projects.

In terms of membership, we are still having a number of internal discussions about which countries to engage, which countries could potentially join.  But the ISTC is open to all countries that have an interest in this particular mission.  We are looking for countries that are both strong partners, that have a scientific base that would be interested in partnering with scientists that are member – that are part of the countries that are members of the ISTC.  But we are also – and as you can imagine – interested in donor countries that are looking to fund projects.  And currently, the United States has fairly regularly funded projects.  Japan has as well, the European Union as well.  The Republic of Korea has as well.  Having a country like China express interest in the ISTC would, of course, be very much welcome along with other countries like Singapore or perhaps why not more broadly in other parts of the world.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  This is Boya Li with People’s Daily.  My question is you mentioned about Ukraine.  So has the crisis in Ukraine put the U.S.-Russia nuclear nonproliferation cooperation at stake?

MR LIMAGE:  So it’s an interesting question.  The dynamic between Russia and Ukraine has not necessarily had an enormous effect on our nonproliferation cooperation with Russia because that cooperation had been being reduced over the last several years.  The Government of Russia has signaled that it wanted – that it saw less areas for cooperation with the United States on nonproliferation for the last two years. 

In our heyday in the ’90s and early 2000, there was much more work that the United States funded in cooperation with the Russian – with Russian institutes and experts on what we call nonproliferation and threat reduction than today.  In fact, there’s very little that is left.  There are some legacy activities that the National Nuclear Security Administration here in the United States does with the Russian Government and there’s some limited work that the Department of Defense does with Russia.  But that is on a scale that is far smaller.

So Ukraine, I think, may have been a factor in some of the decisions more recently on the U.S. side but I think has had a limited impact in what was already a very much reduced relationship with Russia.  Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe that there are current threats that are important to address in nonproliferation, but the fact of the matter is that less work is being done in this area with Russia, between Russia and the United States.

QUESTION:  Mikyung Kim with Seoul Shinmun Daily, Korea.  Would you be more specific on how the ISTC has to do with the nonproliferation currently without Russia?  I mean, you have cooperated with Russia to stop proliferation for a long time, and without Russia is it effective, I mean, for – I mean, thinking about the whole of the ISTC?

And my second question is after Russia left, the organization requires the new or more roles to the remaining members like Korea?  And is – we just play as a funder, or we can have some benefit from this organization?  Thank you.

MR LIMAGE:  Absolutely.  Thank you for the question.  You ask a very good question:  What is the impact of Russia leaving the ISTC?  In our view, the impact is – the most significant impact of Russia’s departure is on Russian scientists and their technical experts.  The ISTC is on a course, we believe, to expand to new countries and continues to fund important work with the current members of the ISTC and, as I described very briefly, has worked with thousands of scientists and institutes in non-Russian countries of the former Soviet Union and continues to do so today and will do so in the future.  The ISTC has very strong relations with a number of institutes in Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and those have been good partnerships for institutes in other members of the ISTC – the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States.  For the United States for example, our national labs are very heavily involved whether it’s Los Alamos or some of our other Department of Energy labs.  So I think the impact was really more on Russia than it has been on the ISTC.

In terms of the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea has been a longstanding member of the International Science and Technology Center.  It is a funder of the ISTC.  The Republic of Korea has enabled scientists from the former Soviet Union to participate in scientific cooperation and nonproliferation activities.  Some of the projects that have been funded include important topics in energy, in agriculture, in medicine, in material science, in aerospace, in physics, and include both academic and government research institutions. 

I’ll give you a specific example of what Korea has done.  Every year, for example, Korea sponsors workshops at Korean institutes and invites 10 to 15 Georgian scientists and scientists from the central – from the CIS countries to present their work on a wide range of topics.  Last year the topic was novel forms or new forms of sustainable energy production, and this year it will be nanotechnology.  This helps to develop future collaboration between CIS Georgian laboratories and their Korean counterparts. 

And I’ll – if you’d like some numbers in terms of funding, up till 2013 and through 2013, so including 2013, the ISTC reports that the Republic of Korea Government has provided $1,980,000 for projects, and private Korean partners have provided $339,189.  So the Republic of Korea is a very valued member of the ISTC and I think has demonstrated over the years its commitment to the organization and to its mission.

Go ahead.

QUESTION:  First of all, forgive my ignorance, but does this has anything to do with North Korea?  I mean, does this – has this done anything related to North Korea?  Does this plan to do anything relate to North Korea?

MR LIMAGE:  So currently, no.  The ISTC funds projects and is responsive to the interests of its individual members and works in the countries that are members of the ISTC.  So there is no focus on North Korea.

QUESTION:  But in terms of efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, I think North Korea has long been accused of spreading some missile and nuclear technology to countries like Syria.  And so --

MR LIMAGE:  So that is a very real threat and a very real problem, but the ISTC as an organization has not focused on that particular threat. 

Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yes, I’m Ia Meurmishvili from the Voice of America’s Georgian News Service.  Do you coordinate any efforts with law enforcement?

MR LIMAGE:  Yes.  As I had mentioned a little earlier, our – the State Department has a number of nonproliferation programs, including a program that focuses on counter-nuclear smuggling.  And that particular threat requires an interagency response, and we work very closely with the Georgian Government along with other countries that are partners in dealing with this particular threat and specifically with law enforcement in Georgia.  Law enforcement has a very important role to play in breaking up and identifying smuggling networks, and there was in particular a case that the Georgian Government was helpful in addressing in 2010, where we were grateful and appreciative of the fact that there was an apprehension of smugglers then.

Now we continue to work with the Georgian Government.  We have an agreement with the Georgian Government where the United States – State Department, Department of Energy, FBI, and other agencies – work closely to strengthen the Georgian Government’s ability to detect, prevent, and respond to the threat of proliferation.  And we really – we value that partnership because the region itself is an important region for this issue.

QUESTION:  And where does the – in the hierarchy of things or in the jurisdiction, where do you stand as – in the whole picture?  You train people and you provide assistance, but what is it that you do in particular if a network of smugglers is discovered?

MR LIMAGE:  So how do we address that?

QUESTION:  Yeah.  What’s your role in that?

MR LIMAGE:  Absolutely.  So my specific focus is to oversee cooperative threat reduction programs.  So we don’t – the key word here being “cooperative.”  We only work if a government wants to work with the United States, and we provide assistance in areas that have been identified collaboratively between us and the United States, so – or between us and the host government or the partner government. 

Typically, the areas where we supply training, equipment, and expertise, exchange best practices, help address particular threats, are in border security, for example, where we will help countries develop detection capability – either fixed capability, portal monitors at borders, at land crossings, where we will work with our interagency to provide portal monitors that will identify potential material coming through trucks or vehicles.  At the State Department we also provide handheld equipment to enable border guards to do search and seizure of materials.  We’ll also work at ports – all ports of entry, including sea ports, land ports, airports.

The State Department also plays an important coordination role.  So we will bring in – if we don’t have expertise within the department, we’ll bring Homeland Security and others to help with that mission.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  We have time for one or two more questions.  Are there any final – we’ll go over here.

QUESTION:  Tetsu Kobayashi, Asahi Shimbun (inaudible).  Let me ask about – could you speak the Japan’s reprocessing policy?

MR LIMAGE:  So my apologies – I’d love to address, but unfortunately, that’s not within my purview.  But I’d be happy to take a question back to our --

QUESTION:  Is there any impact on the ISTC or --

MR LIMAGE:  There’s no relation that I can imagine.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR LIMAGE:  I appreciate the question, and we can find a way to follow up.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Final question, I guess, then, to – go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you. [Li Boya of China’s People’s Daily.]

So you mentioned about the reduced cooperation between U.S. and Russia on the nonproliferation front.  And since Obama Administration and Russia signed the new treaty on nuclear arm control – the New START – do you see it as a setback for the Obama Administration on its second term in its cooperation with Russia and the way forward?  Do you see cooperation (inaudible) further isolation of Russia?

MR LIMAGE:  So I certainly don’t see it as a setback for the Obama Administration.  If I understand your question related to the New START agreement and the reduction in cooperation with Russia, the New START agreement we see as positive, as a very important development in the field of arms control, and a sign of leadership between both countries in terms of reducing the world’s most dangerous weapons.  So I see that as a positive achievement.

That, in my mind, is different from the nonproliferation challenge, where we work to together address what is a UN mandate, a UN – described under UN Security Council 1540, which China, Korea, the United States, and Russia all support.  We can’t but deplore the fact that there is reduced cooperation, because we continue to see threats that have evolved.  As I mentioned earlier, the threats aren’t necessarily state-to-state threats, but there are a number of threats posed by non-state actors.  Whether it’s ISIL or other groups that have an avowed interest in getting their hands on and using weapons of mass of destruction, it is important to have as many partners as one can.  And having one less partner – or a partner that’s perhaps less focused on this area – is not a positive development.

QUESTION:  But given the cooperation on Syria, do you still consider the cooperation between United States and Russia reduced (inaudible)?

MR LIMAGE:  The framework agreement that was developed to remove the Assad regime’s declared chemical weapons arsenal was a historic achievement and was achieved in great part by Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov and our two governments working closely together.  Unfortunately, there still remains a lot of work to do.  We’re still aware, as has been identified, of continuing chemical weapons attacks and the use of chlorine.  So there’s still – I think sitting back and seeing that as an achievement, I think, is – would be misguided.  It was an important achievement, but there is still a lot of work to do, and it is the work of the international community. 

The effort to remove Syrian chemical weapons was not simply a U.S.-Russia effort.  It was the work of a number of countries that participated either by funding the work of the OPCW, providing ships like Denmark and Norway to remove the material from Syria, work by the United Kingdom to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons – to destroy those weapons, Finland, many other countries participated.  China participated as well and deserves an enormous amount of credit for participating in that removal operation.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  With that, this event is now concluded.  Thank you all for coming.

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