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Remarks to the 2015 GICNT Plenary Meeting
July 9, 2015

Thomas M. Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Helsinki, Finland
June 16, 2015

Good morning.

Esteemed delegates, I welcome you all to the ninth Plenary Meeting. I have the deepest appreciation to the Republic of Finland for hosting this important event, and I am particularly grateful for Foreign Minister Soini agreeing to deliver the keynote address. Ambassador Klaus Korhonen and his staff have worked tirelessly in organizing these meetings. And Finland has shown its support for advancing our joint mission in other important ways by hosting the January 2015 nuclear detection workshop and exercise, “Northern Lights,” and by submitting national-level case studies for inclusion in the GICNT’s “Developing a Nuclear Detection Architecture” series.

Since the United States and Russia launched the GICNT nine years ago, all of us improved our capacity to prevent, detect, deter, and respond to nuclear terrorism. The GICNT’s structure and flexibility provide unique value in advancing global nuclear security objectives, and this view is shared at the highest levels of our government. President Obama called for turning the GICNT into a durable international institution during his 2009 Prague speech. I would like to highlight the President’s continued support for the GICNT by reading the following Presidential Message.

This 2015 Plenary is an important opportunity to review progress made in implementing the GICNT strategy announced at the 2013 Plenary in Mexico City and outline a vision for 2015-2017 that builds on the successful outcomes of activities held over the past two years. I highlight the contributions of the Republic of Korea and its representative, Dr. Min Gyungsik, as the current IAG Coordinator. Dr. Min’s leadership and dedication has played a critical role in building partnership capacity over the past two years, especially through practical and cross-disciplinary activities. I look forward to Dr. Min’s recommendations for future strategy and activities, as well as proposals for the future strategic direction of the IAG from our next coordinator.

I commend the progress made by the GICNT’s nuclear detection, forensics, and response and mitigation working groups, chaired by the Netherlands, Australia, and Morocco, respectively. I congratulate the Working Group Chairs on their many accomplishments in addressing difficult and emerging challenges that partners face, such as integrating nuclear detection and forensics capabilities to support an investigation into stolen nuclear and other radioactive materials; introducing nuclear forensic evidence in the courtroom to prosecute cases involving terrorist use of radiological and nuclear materials and illicit trafficking; and public messaging during a nuclear security incident. In addition, I welcome their efforts in working together to develop and implement cross-disciplinary activities and acknowledge Dr. Min’s overall leadership and support in promoting such collaboration.

The GICNT could not have accomplished so much in two years without partners who volunteered to host and organize GICNT activities. I extend my deep appreciation to the European Union and many partner nations who will be recognized during tomorrow’s session for their leadership and support. I also want to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Canada, Australia, Spain, Ukraine, and New Zealand in supporting GICNT activities. I thank the many participants who attended GICNT events and contributed actively to their success by presenting, serving as exercise facilitators, and sharing their unique experiences, best practices, and lessons learned.

We thank all of the GICNT partner nation representatives here today for demonstrating your government’s commitment to combating the threat of nuclear terrorism. I’d like to especially welcome our newest partner, Iraq, and official observer, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. This Initiative is contingent upon partners’ voluntary support and contributions, and I am therefore pleased to see so many representatives here today.

GICNT Progress Since 2013

At the 2013 Plenary in Mexico City, a two-year strategy was adopted that reinforced partners’ calls for an increase in practical, topically- and regionally-focused activities, including more GICNT workshops and exercises. Significant progress has been made in implementing this strategy.

The GICNT has held 15 multilateral activities over the past two years, including workshops, tabletop exercises, a field training exercise, and the GICNT’s first mock trial. We promoted the practical implementation of guidance and best practices in topical areas identified by partners as priorities. These events also advanced the GICNT strategy by focusing on the interfaces between nuclear detection, response, and forensics, and exploring regional nuclear security challenges and approaches to enhancing cooperation. Notably, the IAG, for the first time, held a cross-disciplinary tabletop exercise, “Atlas Lion,” that underscored the value of such exercises in advancing the GICNT’s mission.

The 2013 strategy has been enthusiastically embraced by the partnership, and GICNT activities have brought together policy, technical, and operational experts from different disciplines to exchange best practices and strategies for confronting the threat of nuclear terrorism. I am also impressed by the quality of activities that partners have hosted and the products and other outcomes that have been generated through the contributions of all participants. I look forward to hearing more about them later today and tomorrow.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

I would also like to take a moment to reflect on the outcomes of the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The United States’ delegation worked extensively with other NPT delegations to seek consensus, and we made real progress in advancing the discussion on global nonproliferation policy, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful application of nuclear technology. The United States made clear that we understand and share the widespread concern of humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. We also underscored the importance of international efforts, such as the GICNT, to curb the threat of nuclear terrorism, and we welcome that the draft final document gave increased priority to nuclear security. I represented the United States at a GICNT side event held during the Review Conference, which was organized by our Finnish colleagues. I congratulate Ambassador Korhonen for drawing attention to the important work being done by partners and showcasing how the GICNT complements and supports our broader nuclear nonproliferation objectives.

Despite our best efforts, we were not able to come to consensus on the president’s text dealing with a Middle East WMD-Free Zone. This draft text was incompatible with the fundamental principles of diplomatic practice, as it did not guarantee consensus-based discussions among the regional states on the agenda and modalities for the proposed Middle East WMD-free zone conference. However, if the states in the region are ready to resume the process of building a zone through consensus, direct dialogue with its neighbors, and a broad-based agenda, the U.S. stands ready to be their strongest supporter.

Nonetheless, the Review Conference demonstrated the broad international support for the Treaty and the critical role it plays in global security. The United States was pleased to join other NPT Parties in reaffirming our unwavering support for the NPT, and we look forward to continuing to work together collectively to strengthen it.

U.S. Nuclear Security Achievements Since 2013 Plenary

I look forward to the national statements for partner nations to highlight their national achievements in strengthening nuclear security and countering nuclear terrorism. For our part, earlier this month, the U.S. Congress enacted long-sought implementation legislation for the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, an amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and the Protocols to the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. With enactment of this legislation, the United States is now in a position to move forward to ratify these important treaties.

The United States has also implemented a broad set of additional measures to strengthen nuclear security domestically, bilaterally, and through multilateral organizations and institutions, such as the GICNT, IAEA, United Nations, INTERPOL, and the Global Partnership.

Over 50 world leaders gathered for the third Nuclear Security Summit last year in The Hague to sustain high-level international attention on preventing nuclear terrorism and renew commitments to the 2010 Washington Work Plan. The United States looks forward to hosting the 2016 Summit. The GICNT has continued to play a lasting role in supporting the goals of the Summit process, as recognized in the 2012 and 2014 Summit Communiqués.


The United States attaches great importance to the GICNT, and we express our sincere appreciation for your valuable contributions to advancing its mission. I encourage your continued support of the GICNT by hosting, organizing, and sending appropriate experts to attend GICNT activities, and contributing to the development of products that promote capacity-building across the GICNT’s focus areas. The United States appreciates your continued feedback and support as we seek to ensure that GICNT activities build strategically upon one another to enhance partnership capabilities and address partners’ nuclear security priorities.

Once again, thank you for your commitment to the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. I look forward to engaging in constructive discussions today and tomorrow as we collectively strengthen the Initiative and set plans for the next two years of work.

Thank you.