UNSCR 1540

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Status Brief

Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:

Current Assessment/State of the Field:



Web Resources

UN’s 1540 Legislative Databasehttp://www.un.org/sc/1540/legisdocuments.shtml


Prosser, Andrew, et. al, “The Proliferation Security Initiative in Perspective,” June 16, 2004, http://www.cdi.org/pdfs/psi.pdf

  1. “PSI states remain secretive about the methods being employed and the number of actual interdictions being carried out.”
  2. can board vessels “flying a given country’s flaf at sea” that participates in the initiative
  3. the power to stop and seize in high seas is “virtually non-existent”, can stop ships flying own flag and those that aren’t flagged
  4. internal waters, authority diminished in territorial seas
  5. “freedom of navigation on the high seas is limited in situations of slave trading, piracy, illicit narcotics trafficking, and unauthorized broadcasting, while innocent passage is inalienable ‘so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order, or security of the coastal state.”
  6. “where a suspected WMD cargo is transported under the flag of a foreign state that does not wish to grant PSI member countries permission to board its ship, PSI participants will usually not have the authority to act.”
  7. “states not bound by an international treaty prohibiting the transfer of WMD technologies are permitted to transport mass destruction weapons cargoes”
  8. “interception of WMD transfers at sea might be viewed as consistent with UNSC resolutions”
  9. if a country opposes the initiative, PSI operations cannot be carried out

PSI, UNSCR 1540, Nonproliferation, WMD, Law Enforcement, ship boarding agreements


Logan, Samuel E., “The Proliferation Security Initiative: Navigating the Legal Challenges,” Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, Vol. 14:2 Spring, 2005, pp 253-272.

  1. “According to the Statement [of Interdiction Principles], PSI countries are to pursue the goals of the initiative “to the extent their national legal authorities permit and consistent with their obligations under international law and frameworks.” p 257
  2. “The Statement of Interdiction Principles lays out “specific actions” to be undertaken by PSI participants. Subparagraphs 4(b) and (c) call on flag states to board and search their own vessels regardless of their location in the world and to consider providing consent to other states for such boardings.” p257
  3. “According to Dr. Michael Beck, Executive Director of the Center for International Trade and Security, PSI efforts “face a major problem because 95 percent of the ingredients for WMD are dual-use in nature, having both civilian and WMD applications.” p 259
  4. “But Resolution 1540 is insufficient in itself. The Resolution recognizes proliferation to be “a threat to international peace and security,”133 but does not explicitly authorize the types of interdictions to take place under the PSI.” p270



Auerswald, David P., “Deterring Nonstate WMD Attacks,” Political Science Quarterly, Volume 121, Number 4, 2006, pg 543-569.

  1. “For deterrence to work against an individual, a terrorist or crime group, or a nation-state, you must either increase the costs that the entity has to pay, or decrease the benefits they get, should they change their behavior.” * “PSI is both defensive and deterrent in nature.”
  2. “UNSC Resolution 1540 makes it a global crime to traffic in WMD materials or delivery systems, demands improvements in border controls and internal security over WMD materials, and sets the legal framework for future interdiction and punishment.”

WMD, Biodefense, PSI, UNSCR 1540, deterrence by denial and punishment


Epstein, Gerald L., “Law Enforcement and the Prevention of Bioterrorism: Its Impact on the US Research Community,” GLOBAL NON-PROLIFERATION AND COUNTER-TERRORISM: THE IMPACT OF UNSCR 1540, Eds. Bosch, Olivia and Peter van Ham, Brookings Institution Press: 2007.

  1. Law enforcement aims to prosecute offenders, tighten security and increase preventitive measures for bioterrorism.
  2. concern over biological research use
  3. The AntiTerrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: regualting transport of biological agents, prevent access for criminal use.
  4. imbalanced rules in science vs. law enforcement, restrictions on biological research impeding/infringing upon research creativity
  5. Tomas Foral, Thomas Butler, Steven Kurtz

Bioterrorism, Lab Safety, UNSCR 1540, Law Enforcement


Guilfoyle, Douglas, “Maritime Interdiction of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” JOURNAL OF CONFLICT & SECURITY LAW, 2007, Volume 12, No.1, pages 1-36.

  1. Maritime law enforcement- stop and search a vessel at sea “potentially seizing cargo and arresting persons aboard.”
  2. flag vessels enforced by their states, flag-state consent
  3. “a coastal state can enforce its criminal law against ships bound for, or leaving, its internal waters.”
  4. “so long as the acts of a vessel situated within the contiguous zone produce an infringement of a coastal state’s customs, fiscal, sanitary, and immigration laws within the territorial sea, ‘control’ could be asserted to punish those acts.”
  5. “In 1992, the Security Council identified the ‘proliferation of all WMD’ as a ‘threat to international peace and security.'”

PSI, UNSCR 1540, Law Enforcement, Law, Nonproliferation, WMD, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea


Van Ham, Peter & Olivia Bosch, “Global Non-Proliferation and Counter-Terrorism : The Tole of Resolution 1540 and Its Implications“, GLOBAL NON-PROLIFERATION AND COUNTER-TERRORISM: THE IMPACT OF UNSCR 1540, Eds. Bosch, Olivia, and Peter van Ham, Brookings Institution Press: 2007.

  1. “Because international law does not apply to individuals, non-state actors are subject only to prohibitions laid down in an often ambiguous patchwork of domestic law.”
  2. “The process of ratification means that a state makes the international treaty obligations part of its domestic law and national regulations.”

Nonproliferation, UNSCR 1540, Law Enforcement


Fuhrmann, Matthew, “Making 1540 Work: Achieving Universal Compliance with Nonproliferation Export Control Standards“, World Affairs (Washington, D.C), Win 2007, Volume 169, No.3, pages 143-52.

  1. “An effective nonproliferation export control system must license or approve the export, re-export, transit, and transhipment of proliferation-sensitive commodities.” p 144
  2. “For an export control system to be effective, frontline personnel must enforce regulations at border crossings and governemnts must punish those who intentionally or inadvertently corcumvent the system.” p 144
  3. “Governments with little experience in [restricting trade] often perceive that export control directly conflicts with one of their primary objectives — to augment national wealth by promoting exports and imposing few restrictions.” p 145
  4. “The most glaring points of nonconvergence remain India’s failure to join the export control regimes, which it has historically viewed as discriminatory.” p 146
  5. “New Delhi has harmonized its nuclear and missile control lists with those of the NSG and the MTCR and is currently working to harmonize those lists pertaining to chemical, biological, and conventional dual-use secorts with the relevant export control regimes.” pp. 147-148
  6. “Russia is not a member of the AG, though its control lists closely match the AG’s lists of controlled items, and it is a signatory of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC.” p 148

Nonproliferation, Russia, India, UNSCR 1540


Song, Yann-Huei, “The U.S.-Led Proliferation Security Initiative and UNCLOS: Legality, Implementation, and an Assessment”, Ocean Development & International Law, 38: 101-145 (2007).

  1. “UNCLOS, which is considered ‘[a] Constitution for the Oceans,’… has been praised as the most comprehensive political and legislative work ever undertaken by the United Nations.” (pg.102)
  2. “There is nothing in UNCLOS that explicitly prohibits the possession or transportation of ‘WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials’ by a foreign-flagged vessel.” (pg115)
  3. “‘PSI requires participating countries to act consistent with national legal authorities and relevant international law and frameworks,’ which includes the law reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.’” (pg.113)
  4. “Three major factors should be considered in determining if a PSI interception is permissible under international law: first, the nature of the cargo transferred or transported by the intercepted vessel; second, the location where the interception action takes place; and third, the nationality of the intercepted vessel.” (pg.114)
  5. “In order to legally intercept WMD-related cargos, PSI participating countries must present reasonable evidence showing that the WMD-related cargoes are being transferred or transported to and from ‘states and non-state actors of proliferation concern’ and will be used for nonpeaceful purposes.” (pg.115)
  6. “An interdiction is legal under UNCLOS if the vessel that is being interdicted flies the flag of the interdicting country or flies the flag of a state that consents to the interdiction.” (pg.118)
  7. “It would also be legal for a PSI participating country to stop a vessel flying no flags or more than one flag in its national waters or international waters.” (pg.118)
  8. “Interdictions can be undertaken in different maritime zones, including internal waters, territorial sea, archipelagic waters, contiguous zone, straits used for international navigations, EEZs, and the high seas.” (pg.116)
  9. “There are other international treaties, regimes, and frameworks that can be relied on if interdiction actions against suspect vessels that carry or transport ‘WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials’ to and from ‘states and non-states of proliferation concern’ are necessary.” (pg.125)
  10. “The United States maintains that the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles are consistent with the UN Security Resolution 1540, operative paragraph 10 which ”’calls upon” all States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials.'” (pg.113)
  11. “The legality of an interdiction action must be examined on a case-by-case basis.” (pg.122)

Law, WMD, Law Enforcement, PSI, UNSCR 1540,


Kaliadin, Aleksandr, “In Search of an Effective Coercive Strategy to Deter Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Russian Social Science Review, Vol. 49, no. 2, March-April 2008, pp. 77-93.

  1. “The PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) aims at keeping proliferators away from the materials necessary for developing WMDs and their delivery systems by monitoring the trade routes used for proliferation and intercepting suspicious cargoes.”
  2. “Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), believes that the ‘black market’ in nuclear technologies and materials has become a reality and exists outside the effective control of either the IAEA or the leading special services.”
  3. “(NPT) does not impose sanctions on member states …(BWC) also has no statement on sanctions …(CWC) were not designed to curb proliferation among nonstate structures.”
  4. “An essential flaw of the nonproliferation treaties is that they stipulate no mechanisms for the physical prevention of the activities they ban.”
  5. “The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its decision to support the PSI on 31 May 2004, on its first anniversary.”
  6. “(UNSCR) Resolution 1540, …helps establish the necessary legal foundations for PSI-related activities. …its key statements and its messages are in line with PSI’s principles.”
  7. “During the first half of the year (2004) PSI participants conducted ten exercises: five at sea, three in the air, and two on the ground.”
  8. “The highly sensitive information on which PSI operations must be based will demand a qualitatively new (and unprecedented) level of cooperation between Russian and U.S. state agencies.”
  9. “Russian … first greeted the initiative (PSI) with restraint, even with skepticism and distrust.” {further discussion on Russian perspective excluded}
  10. “Russia faces complex challenges in balancing the requirements to promote WMD nonproliferation against the need to develop the nuclear and other branches of industry that manufacture and export dual-use goods and technologies and to reassess its regional geopolitical interests.”
  11. “It is vital to Russia’s interests that its strategic stability not be undermined by its neighbors acquiring nuclear arms while Russia is reducing its own strategic offensive weapons–for economic and technical reasons, among others.”

PSI, NPT, BWC, CWC, UNSCR 1540, Dual Use, WMD, Russia


McNerney, Patricia A., “Conference on Global Perspectives of the Proliferation Landscape: An Assessment of Tools and Policy Problems” M2 PRESSWIRE, June 10, 2008.

  1. WMD’s as “the major security threat of the 21st century”
  2. challenge to get rid of the networks that supply these weapons
  3. challenge to interdict

WMD, PSI, UNSCR 1540, Nonproliferation


McNerney, Patricia, “United States Government Nonproliferation Priorities & AsiaSTATES NEWS SERVICE, July 1, 2008.

  1. increased trade in Asia leads to it being a target area for illicit trade
  2. UNSCR 1540- “strong global action to deny trade and financial support”
  3. PSI- “to stop shipments of equipment, material, and technology for WMD or delivery systems.”, interdiction

PSI, UNSCR 1540, Nonproliferation


Hayward, Mary Alice, “Proliferation Paths: Weak States, Rogues, & ActorsSCOOP INDEPENDENT NEWS, July 27, 2008.

  1. Global Threat Reduction Initiative- “to secure nuclear and radiological materials at civilia sites throughout the world in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists or other rogue actors.”
  2. UNSCR 1540- criminalizes proliferation, develops “capacity to fight proliferation”
  3. PSI- interdiction

PSI, UNSCR 1540, Nonproliferation


Sanger, David, “Obama Pushes to Update Global Rules on Nuclear Arms,” A6, NYT, September 25, 2009.

  1. “He [Obama] pushed through a new United Nations Security resolution that would, if enforced, make it more difficult to turn peaceful nuclear programs into weapons projects.”
  2. “the White House celebrated the passage of a new Security Council resolution that ‘encouraged’ countries to enforce new restrictions on the transfer of nuclear material and technology, the measure stopped well short of authorizing forced inspections of countries believed to be developing weapons.”
  3. “the [new] resolution was less specific, as well as less stringent, than the last broad nuclear passed, in 2004 under President Bush, known as Resolution 1540.”
  4. “‘Today’s resolution had a different purpose,’ said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard.  ‘It was intended to win unanimous support for remaking the nonproliferation treaty, strengthening inspections and getting everyone behind the idea of securing all nuclear materials in four years.  And they got that agreement.’”

Nuclear, Dual Use, UNSCR 1540


Asada, Masahiko, “Security Council Resolution 1540 to Combat WMD Terrorism: Effectiveness and Legitimacy in International LegislationJOURNAL OF CONFLICT AND SECURITY LAW, Oxford University Press, 2009.

  1. desperate need for nuclear security
  2. each state should make certain acts punishable by law with penailties equal to the crime
  3. problems with creating a national treaty to combat terrorism, proliferation of WMDs.

Law Enforcement, WMD, UNSCR 1540, Nonproliferation


D’Agostino, Mark. Martin, Greg, “The bioscience revolution & the biological weapons threat: levers & interventions,” February 16, 2009, Global Health. 2009; 5: 3. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

  1. “The World at Risk Report addresses the role of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in addressing the biological weapons threat, and advocates that the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) press for an international conference of countries with major biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to discuss the norms and safeguards necessary to keep dangerous pathogens out of the hands of terrorists, and to ensure that the global revolution in the life sciences unfolds safely and securely.”
  2. “By piecing together large fragments of genetic material synthesized in the laboratory, it is possible to assemble highly virulent infectious viruses.”
  3. “Chyba and Greninger note that experiments performed and published over the last decade-ranging from the incorporation of immune-suppressing interleukin-4 (IL-4) into the mousepox virus to create a deadlier virus able to infect vaccinated animals, to the ability to synthesize viruses from scratch using chemicals on the open market-already demonstrate that the technological know-how to construct dangerous pathogens is widespread.”

Biotechnology, UNSCR 1540


Sanger, David, E., Baker, Peter, “Obama to Adopt Narrowed Stand on Nuclear Arms,” NYT, A1, April 6, 2010.

  1. “Mr. Obama described his policy as part of a broader effort to edge the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete, and to create incentives for countries to give up any nuclear ambitions.”
  2. “[Obama] seeks to reshape the nation’s nuclear posture for a new age in which rogue states and terrorist organizations are greater threats than tradition al powers like Russia and China.”
  3. “For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.”
  4. “White House officials said the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.”
  5. “But the President said in an interview that he was carving out an exception for ‘outliers like Iran and North Korea’ that have violated or renounced the main treaty to halt nuclear proliferation.”

Nuclear, Bioterrorism, UNSCR 1540, Nonproliferation, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, NPT


Lieggi, Stephanie; Sabatini, Richard, “Malaysia’s Export Control Law: A Step Forward, But How Big?,” 10 May 2010, NTI http://www.nti.org/e_research/e3_malaysia_export_control_law.html Last Checked 1 August 2011.

  1. “In April 2010 . . . the Malaysian government announced that it had enacted the Strategic Trade Act, intended to strengthen Kuala Lumpur’s ability to curb the export and transshipment of WMD related materials.”
  2. “Critics have consistently accused Malaysia of giving insufficient attention to its nonproliferation-related trade controls. This is a serious problem because proliferating states and non-state actors are known to seek out and take advantage of weak links in the global security chain in order to procure sensitive WMD-related technologies. Inadequate strategic trade controls can provide states and terrorist organizations ample opportunity to acquire components used in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons with little risk of being caught.”
  3. “Economic prosperity and development have tended to trump concerns about potential illicit trafficking issues in Malaysia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.”
  4. “The popularity of Malaysian ports noticeably increased after the port of Dubai in the UAE—previously the transit point of choice for Iranian and Pakistani based traffickers—increased its transshipment controls under pressure from the United States and other international partners.”
  5. “Iranian entities in particular appeared to be transshipping sensitive goods through Malaysia as a means to route them to Tehran without arousing the suspicion of the original supplier.”
  6. “Malaysia has been far from alone in its reluctance to impose stronger nonproliferation-related trade controls. Throughout Southeast Asia, attempts to implement UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 have met resistance or lukewarm interest.
  7. “Malaysia—along with most Southeast Asian states—submitted its national report to the 1540 Committee in 2004.”
  8. “The Malaysian report showed a weak and disjointed system without a significant unifying law, and little understanding of the importance of transshipment and brokering controls.”
  9. “The report also stated that Malaysia lacked a comprehensive WMD export control system and that export control laws and regulations were primarily “based on economic reasons.”
  10. “Despite strong international concern regarding the overall efficiency and effectiveness of its trade control system at the time, Malaysia’s 1540 report did not reference any weaknesses within its system. Specifically, Malaysia asserted in its initial report that it “does not require assistance in implementing” UNSCR 1540 but indicated a willingness to consider requests from other states for assistance.”
  11. “The limited implementation of UNSCR 1540 in Southeast Asia and elsewhere derives from insufficient financial and technical resources.”
  12. “Malaysia long perceived export and transshipment control requirements as largely negative, potentially resulting in lessened economic progress and development.”
  13. “[I]n the last few years, Malaysia has shown more interest in cooperating internationally on strategic trade controls. Malaysia and the United States have worked through the State Department administered Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) to help Malaysian officials draft effective regulations and establish a workable licensing system.”
  14. “Malaysia has also been a regular participant in the Japanese government sponsored Asian Export Control Seminar. In 2008, the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control, which implements the European Commission’s assistance projects related to export controls, identified Malaysia as an important partner within its outreach program.”
  15. “Despite this interaction with foreign partners, Malaysia’s new export control system was slow to get up to speed. Highlighting the continued problem of lax transshipment controls in the Malaysian system, allegations of illegal Malaysian involvement in exports of sensitive dual-use items to Iran emerged in 2008.”
  16. “Since taking office last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has sought to create warmer relations with the United States and recognized that Malaysia’s lax nonproliferation-related trade controls was a serious impediment to bilateral relations.”
  17. “The new Strategic Trade Act outlaws the shipment of weapons of mass destruction related materials through Malaysian territory and represents a significant step towards fuller compliance with UNSCR 1540.”
  18. “The new legislation, which was drafted with the support of U.S. experts and officials, was one of the numerous “house gifts” that countries brought to Washington during the summit showing their support for President Obama’s efforts in this area.”
  19. “The law authorizes the appointment of a Strategic Trade Controller to establish and coordinate a more unified licensing system for trade in strategic materials. The law further extends the control of the system over strategic items being transshipped through Malaysian ports, and creates a basis for controlling brokering activities of Malaysian entities.”
  20. “Under the Strategic Trade Act, prison sentences of no less than five years and considerable fines have been set for those designated as violators of the law.”
  21. “Given the critical importance of exports of high-tech goods to Malaysia’s economy, many within the domestic system will remain reluctant to block shipments without clear proof that the goods in question are destined for a weapons purpose—a very difficult standard to meet.”

Export Control, UNSCR 1540, WMD, Biosecurity, Malaysia


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