Foreign Press Center Briefing with Laura Holgate, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction, National Security Council; Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Deputy Secretary, Department of Energy; Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Department of State; and Huban Gowadia, Director, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Department of Homeland Security
Tuesday, March 29, 2016, The Washington Foreign Press Center, Washington, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Foreign Press Centers in Washington, D.C., and to all of you who have joined us in New York City. This afternoon, we are pleased to host an interagency panel of senior U.S. Government officials to preview the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, which will take place from March 31st to April 1st here in Washington, D.C.
Our briefers today include Laura Holgate, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism and Threat reduction for the National Security Council. Ms. Holgate oversees and coordinates the development of national policies and programs to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. She also acts as U.S. sherpa to the Nuclear Security Summits and co-leads the effort to advance the President’s Global Health Security Agenda.
We are also pleased to welcome Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy. The Deputy Secretary has served as second in command at the Energy Department since October 2014. She joined President Obama’s Administration on day one, serving from 2009 to 2013 as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. And from 2013 to 2104 as White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control.
We are also very pleased to welcome Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at the Department of State. As Under Secretary, Ms. Gottemoeller advises the Secretary of State on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. She previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance and was the chief U.S. negotiator of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the New START, with the Russian Federation, which entered into force on February 5, 2011.
And we’re also very pleased to welcome Dr. Huban Gowadia, Director, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office of the Department of Homeland Security. The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, known as DNDO, serves as the lead federal agency mandated to develop and enhance radiological and nuclear detection and national technical nuclear forensics capabilities.
We will begin with remarks from each of our briefers, after which I will open the floor for questions. Ms. Holgate, thank you for joining us today.
MS HOLGATE: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here at the Foreign Press Center, and I appreciate this chance to give a preview of what’s going to be happening here in Washington over the next few days with the President’s convening of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit.
The Obama Administration’s focus on nuclear security is part of a comprehensive nuclear policy presented by the President in Prague in 2009. In that speech, President Obama described a four-pronged agenda to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. He laid out new U.S. policies and initiatives towards nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear energy.
As you all know well, roughly 2,000 metric tons of nuclear weapons usable materials, highly enriched uranium and plutonium, are present in both civilian and military programs worldwide, and we know that terrorists have the intent and the capability to turn these raw materials into a nuclear device if they were to gain access to them. What we did not know in 2009 was that the rise of ISIL and its WMD ambitions. Unfortunately, their chemical weapons attacks in Iraq and Syria have shown their utter disregard for human life, much less international norms.
A terrorist attack with an improvised nuclear device would create political, economic, social, psychological, and environmental havoc around the world, no matter where such attack occurs. The threat is global, the impact of a nuclear terrorist attack would be global, and the solutions must, therefore, also be global.
The President’s call in Prague was intended to reinvigorate existing bilateral and multilateral efforts and to challenges nations to reexamine their own commitments to nuclear security. World leaders have no greater responsibility to their own people and their neighbors than to secure nuclear materials and prevent nuclear terrorism.
The Nuclear Security Summit process has been a centerpiece of these efforts. Since the first summit in April 2010, here in Washington, D.C., President Obama and more than 50 world leaders have been working together to prevent nuclear terrorism and counter nuclear smuggling through the Nuclear Security Summits.
This summit community has built an impressive track record in meaningful progress towards nuclear security and on actions that back up our words. Collectively, summit participants have made over 260 national commitments in the first three summits, and nearly three-quarters of those commitments have already been implemented. These outcomes, whether in the form of nuclear material removed or eliminated, treaties ratified and implemented, reactors converted, regulations strengthened, centers of excellence launched, technologies upgraded, capabilities enhanced – these are all tangible, concrete evidence of improved nuclear security.
The international community has made it harder than ever for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons and that has made us all more secure. The summit’s success has been built on the personal attention of national leaders, a focus on tangible and meaningful outcomes, and on being a regular event that elicits new commitments and achievements and a forum that builds relationships that can help advance joint efforts.
Looking beyond this last summit, we need to find ways to capture some of these attributes in more lasting vehicles to promote nuclear security progress. The summits were, in fact, designed explicitly to enhance, elevate, expand, and empower an architecture of treaties, institutions, norms and practices to effectively address the threats we face today and in the future.
As the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit represents the last summit in this format, we will issue five action plans in support of the key enduring institutions and initiatives related to nuclear security. Those are the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Interpol, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Global Partnership. These action plans represent steps the summit participants will take as members of these organizations to support their enhanced role in nuclear security going forward.
Another important component of this summit’s success has been the effective network of sherpas, the senior government officials and experts in each summit country who cut across multiple agencies to form a tightknit community of action. This community will be carried forward after the 2016 summit as a nuclear security contact group that will meet regularly to synchronize efforts to implement commitments made in the four summit communiques, national statements, gift baskets, and action plans. Recognizing the interest from those who’ve not been part of the summit process, this contact group will be open to countries who wish to promote the summit agenda.
As much as we have accomplished through the summit process, more work remains. We are – we all need to do more together to enhance nuclear security performance, to dissuade and apprehend nuclear traffickers, to eliminate excess nuclear materials and weapons, to avoid production of materials that we cannot use, to make sure our facilities can repel the full range of threats that we have already seen in our neighborhoods, to share experiences and best practices, and to do so that is – in ways that are visible to friends, neighbors, and rivals, and thereby provide assurance that we are effectively executing our sovereign responsibilities.
But we also need to reflect the principle of continuous improvement, because nuclear security is never done. As long as materials exist, they require our utmost commitment to their protection. I look forward to discussing these ideas with you today. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Please, Deputy Secretary.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here as well. And I was actually in the sunny square in Prague in 2009 when President Obama set forth his Prague agenda.
And I just want to note that Laura Holgate has been the creator of this whole process and has been the idea generator who has made all of those accomplishments possible. I want to pause and give you credit as we enter into this fourth and final summit of the President’s leadership, because the world is safer as a result of what Laura has given her life to doing. Thank you, Laura. We are in your debt.
I had the privilege of working with Laura at the White House when I was the coordinator for WMD, and I served as the sherpa in 2014 for the summit hosted by The Netherlands. And subsequent to that, I went over to the Department of Energy to become the deputy secretary, and my role today is to tell you about what we do at the Department of Energy to support the Nuclear Security Summit process.
The Department of Energy has responsibility for both the provision of the nuclear deterrent to our nation as well as the advancement of our nonproliferation agenda. And our National Nuclear Security Administration, which is an element of the Department of Energy, is responsible for implementation of those duties. The – NNSA is the acronym – NNSA is the acronym for that part of the Department of Energy that has these responsibilities. And we work very closely with partners around the world, the many countries that are involved in the Nuclear Security Summit process in particular, on removals of fissile materials, on counterterrorism cooperation, on radiation detection, on forensics, and on emergency response.
I’m going to focus on what we have done since the start of the summit process to give you an appreciation of the ways in which we provide support around the world to the advancement of this agenda. Because our Department of Energy has unique capabilities in its scientists and engineers who work across the United States in 17 national laboratories and a number of other facilities and provide the technical support that is necessary to achieve our goals in nuclear security. These specialists are the most powerful tool that we have against the nuclear security threats that Laura described.
So here are some examples of the work that we have done at the Department of Energy through our NNSA to support the summit process. We have helped to establish a number of Nuclear Security Centers of Excellence. Most recently, we opened a Nuclear Security Center of Excellence in China. The Chinese Government made a commitment through the summit process to do this, and our Secretary of Energy, Secretary Moniz, was in China last week to celebrate the opening of that Center of Excellence.
We have minimized the civilian use of highly enriched uranium, HEU, through the conversion of research reactors around the world to low enriched uranium, or LEU. We have deployed radiation equipment around the world to combat nuclear smuggling and we have secured and removed radiological materials that could be used by terrorists. We have also removed or confirmed the disposition of more than 3,800 kilograms of vulnerable nuclear material, enough for more than 150 nuclear weapons. Additionally, we have installed radiation detection equipment in 36 partner countries, to include border crossings, airports, and seaports to combat illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. And just in this last year, this equipment was used to identify and stop four Caesium-137 sources at a European port. This was mixed into lead scrap, and the sources were able to be removed and stored appropriately to prevent a huge risk of radioactive contamination.
So it’s success stories like this that motivate us to keep working in conjunction with our State Department and Homeland Security partners to ensure the safety of the American people as well as all of our allies and partners around the world who are working together with us to prevent and counter the risk of nuclear terrorism.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Under Secretary.
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you very much, and it’s a great pleasure to be here today to see so many colleagues from the media world in the audience, so thank you very much for coming. I also have to say what a huge pleasure it is to appear on this podium with my very esteemed colleagues from across the interagency, so thank you to the Foreign Press Center for this opportunity.
I’ve wanted to pick up on some points that Liz Sherwood-Randall was making and Laura Holgate about the way this is a very pragmatic and practical-minded effort. As we like to say, we are tackling the severe problem of nuclear terrorism, nuclear materials or radiological materials falling into the hands of terrorists in a very pragmatic and problem-solving way. I like to think of it as fence by fence, facility by facility, operator by operator. Across the world, we have been working with countries to ensure that we are minimizing the presence of fissile material. Another way to think about the data that Liz provided is to say that we have achieved a 50 percent reduction in the number of countries holding highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium since the start of this process. And as Laura said in her remarks, our work is never done so we will be continuing to press forward with these efforts. But we have really worked in a very pragmatic and problem-solving way.
Liz also touched on what we have done to enhance physical protection but also to build up the capabilities of countries to protect their borders against nuclear smuggling, against trafficking in nuclear or fissile materials, radiological sources. And that has been very important. I was astonished to learn that we’ve actually put radiation detection equipment at 329 international border crossings, airports, and seaports throughout the processes that were put in train by the Nuclear Security Summit.
But one point from my seat in the State Department that I wanted to emphasize for you also is that when we embarked on these efforts, many of the countries participating did not have a very clear sense of what they needed to do on the legal front to tackle this problem. In many countries, possession of nuclear material for sale was not a crime. So another area that we have put a lot of emphasis on is improving our ability not only to locate smuggled material and find the nuclear smugglers, but also to bring them to justice. And that has been a very important aspect of the work underway.
We have been working very hard, for example, in enhancing this international understanding to bring some important conventions into force. We’re working on the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials – the 2005 amendment – to get that into force, and we’ve had a great deal of success in that effort, which you’ll be hearing more in the coming days.
So I just wanted to add to what Laura and Liz said by really emphasizing this part of the equation that we have done a lot to raise awareness and awareness at the highest levels, among the top leaders of the countries participating, in the necessity of a clear legal basis to work these problems, to bring smugglers to justice, to ensure that in fact we are putting people behind bars, if they deserve to be, because they have been engaging in this kind of smuggling practice. So it’s another facet.
I’d like to pass the floor over now to my DHS colleague, who would like to talk to you about work that’s being done inside our own borders on this very important problem.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Doctor.
MS GOWADIA: Thank you, Rose. Thanks for that nice tee-up. I too am genuinely pleased to be here today, and I would like to echo the sentiments of my colleagues from across the United States Government. The Nuclear Security Summits have been an invaluable mechanism to generate awareness for the challenging mission that Laura set forth for us today, and have resulted in tangible progress for nuclear security programs worldwide.
The summits have provided a key platform for the Department of Homeland Security’s pursuit of nuclear security, for which we have both domestic and international responsibilities. Every day the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection officers scan nearly 100 percent of maritime containerized cargo and all truck-borne cargo and personal vehicles for radiation before they enter into the United States. All Coast Guard boarding parties carry radiation-detection equipment, which is also true for the Transportation Security Administration’s VIPER teams, or the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams. Also within DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, also known as FEMA, prepares for the contingency for nuclear incidents, and our national protection and programs directorate works to secure and enhance the resilience of the nuclear sector, including facilities and materials under regulatory control.
Now, my office, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office – or DNDO, as you heard – has two principal areas of responsibility: nuclear forensics and nuclear detection. And we advance the state of the art for both through risk assessments, planning, and information sharing; training and exercises; research, development, tests, and evaluation; and by acquiring and deploying detectors for use by our operational partners. And we do all of this in close cooperation with our partners from across the nuclear security enterprise, from the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, our federal partners, academia, industry, state and local agencies, certainly partner nations, and international agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Now, our work in the international area in particular has benefited and also benefited from the Nuclear Security Summits. At each summit, international collaboration in nuclear forensics has been promoted, and these collaborations have resulted in education and training curricula for practitioners. We have conducted multilateral tabletop exercises and created a lexicon and a knowledge platform for the community. The summits have also promoted national-level security architectures. We’re going beyond the borders to introduce detection capabilities to combat illicit trafficking and the malevolent use of nuclear and other radioactive materials.
Moving forward, the summits will rely on international organizations and constructs such as the IAEA, Interpol, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, with whom we have enjoyed productive partnerships. For instance, we have worked closely with our partner nations through the IAEA and the global initiative to develop and promulgate best practices for developing and implementing nuclear detection architectures, as well as national technical forensics capabilities.
We look forward to the new era in nuclear security brought about by the summit series, which has given momentum to our future bilateral and multilateral efforts. At the Department of Homeland Security, we have appreciated the global attention the summits have brought to the threat of nuclear terrorism, and we will continue to share our experiences in training and exercise, the conduct of operations, and developing and fielding technologies with our international partners. And by enhancing our capabilities at the borders and within the United States, we will endeavor to make nuclear terrorism prohibitively difficult. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Doctor. Well, I’m pleased to open for questions. I’m going to ask that we kindly wait for the microphone, and please state your name and media outlet. For those journalists who are attending in New York, I kindly invite you to your podium if you have a question, and I’ll do my best to make sure that I get to you in due time. So we’ll start out – yes, in the front in the blue, please.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Xuejiao from China Central Television. As we know, the United States and China has been in cooperation in nuclear area, and what do you think China – the role China plays in this Nuclear Security Summit, and what is the potential range of cooperation between U.S. and China after that? Because we know President Xi and Obama will have a bilateral meeting this time. Thank you.
MS HOLGATE: Well, we’re very, very pleased that President Xi is coming to the summit, and we’re really quite encouraged by the leadership that China is beginning to show in the nuclear security realm, not only in managing its own material but in creating a platform for cooperation regionally and internationally through the center of excellence that it’s been carrying out. And this is just one milestone in a history of U.S.-Chinese nuclear cooperation, and maybe Liz can say more about some of the other work that’s been done in that realm. But this is not the beginning; this is something that we’ve been working on for some time. But one of the things that we’re very pleased about is the role that China is showing in terms of cooperating with other countries internationally on the nuclear security issue, and we hope to share that partnership and to see Chinese leadership in that realm increase even further.
MODERATOR: Okay, yes, in the center. Sir.
QUESTION: Hi. This is Jalil Afridi from Frontier Post. As Laura said that there is a great threat that people like ISIL might get a hold on nuclear weapons to be used for terrorism, what are some other countries in the world where the U.S. Government has concerns that the nuclear weapons might land in the wrong hands – some, like, specific areas in the world?
MS HOLGATE: I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to name names in that regard. The good news is that, as Rose mentioned, the number of countries that even have nuclear material is 50 percent smaller than it was only a couple of decades ago, so that’s already a shrinkage. But my concern is about the countries that are complacent, the countries that are in denial about the risk of nuclear terrorism, the countries who are not stepping up to do their own responsibilities in these areas. And so that’s where we really have taken advantage of the summit opportunity to raise awareness, to raise attention, and to focus leaders and governments on these risks.
MODERATOR: Okay. I’d like to go in the red, please. Ma’am.
QUESTION: How concerned are you --
MODERATOR: I’m sorry, what’s your name and your outlet please?
QUESTION: It’s Liudmila Chernova from Sputnik News Agency.
MS HOLGATE: From where?
QUESTION: Sputnik News Agency. It’s Russian news agency. How concerned are you by the killing of the Belgian nuclear plant guard? And if the United States is planning any new measures in partnership with Europe to prevent nuclear materials from falling into hands of terrorists? And if somebody can rate the current nuclear threat, the current and in five years? Thank you.
MS HOLGATE: And we’ll obviously let the Belgian officials speak for themselves, but what we’ve seen is that the Belgians say that they do not consider that particular issue to be a nuclear terrorism issue. They consider it a criminal matter. We have no information to the contrary. U.S. has a long history of cooperation with Belgium, especially through our regulatory channels, but also in cooperation to remove highly enriched uranium and to reduce its use, and so we’re happy to continue that work and have created – have offered our support and assistance to Belgium as they move forward.
MODERATOR: Okay. I see we have a question from New York. Please, if you could state your name and outlet, please.
QUESTION: Hi. Jane Tang with Sina News, China. Following up on U.S.-China cooperation. Concerning the North Korea nuclear threat issue, how would U.S. explain their stance to China during this summit? And secondly, during this current presidential race in the U.S., we’ve seen conflict guideline from different presidential candidates, including the leading candidate suggesting that allies should develop or building the nuclear weapons. So is it just a posturing, or could the next administration really go against the long-held ideal of NNPT? Thank you.
MS HOLGATE: Rose, do you want to take the DPRK question?
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: First of all, I’d like to talk about the great cooperation that we have had with Beijing in this period of developing the UN Security Council resolution that addresses the grave threat we see emanating from the testing of a nuclear device in DPRK in January, and from some advance missile tests since.
These have been very concerning matters, and it’s been very good to see how the entire UN Security Council has been able to come together and to put in place an unprecedented UN Security Council resolution in terms of its strength. And we will continue now working very closely with China, and I have been quite heartened in my interactions with my Chinese counterparts with the degree to which China joins with us in a very strong and intensive focus on ensuring good, solid implementation of the UN Security Council resolution, which, as many of you know, places strong constraints on North Korea’s ability to continue to conduct commerce across its borders, whether by sea, air, or land. So I think it’s a very strong UNSCR. The – as I always like to say, the proof of the pudding is in the making. So now we have to ensure strong implementation of the UNSCR, and thus far our cooperation with China on this has been very, very good.
If I may just comment, the United States is entirely committed to the strength of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. We have excellent partners across the world in the implementation of the three pillars of the NPT – disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful nuclear uses. And among our partners on implementation of the NPT are Asian colleagues, and allies in Japan and the ROK are among our strongest and most, I would say, assiduous partners in implementation of NPT obligations.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Yes, sir, in the center.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is Lalit Jha from PTR, Press Trust of India. My first question is to Laura. India’s prime minister is coming here to attend the summit. What role do you see for India in the Nuclear Security Summit, this latest round? And to the under secretary: Last week, before the Congress, congressional hearing, you had expressed concerns of Pakistan’s deployment of weapon-grade nuclear weapons. Why you are so concerned about it? Can you explain it a little bit more?
MS HOLGATE: Well, we are certainly looking forward to Prime Minister Modi’s visit. And we are looking at this opportunity as a chance to highlight steps that India has taken in its own nuclear security to go beyond, perhaps, some of the activities that it has done before, and we really would like to see a even deeper bilateral cooperation with India proceed going forward out of the summit. So I hope that that will be something that we can work on more closely going forward.
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: If I may answer the second part of the question, first of all, we have a very solid cooperation with Pakistan on nuclear security. They have developed their own Nuclear Security Center of Excellence in recent years. It has quite a mature capability now. We continue to work with them on the nuclear security front.
Our concerns regarding the continuing deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons by Pakistan relate to a reality of the situation: When battlefield nuclear weapons are deployed forward, they can represent a nuclear – enhanced nuclear security threat. It’s more difficult to sustain positive control over systems that are deployed forward. We found this lesson ourselves out in Europe during the years of the Cold War. And so I do think that that is a reality of the situation. It’s not related particularly to any one country. Wherever battlefield nuclear weapons exist, they represent particular nuclear security problems.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Gentleman in the front, on the end. Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi, Stefan Grobe, Euronews, European television. What impact does the de facto absence of Russia have on your work? And looking ahead, we’ve heard that this is the last summit as we know it. What is your sense – what can we expect going forward? Is this going to be a landmark summit in the annual international diplomatic calendar? If not, why not? What is your assessment?
MS HOLGATE: So in terms of your first question regarding Russia, we regret Russia’s decision not to participate in the preparatory meetings for the Nuclear Security Summit or in the summit itself. As far as we were concerned, we left the door open to Russia’s participation until they stated publicly in September that they did not intend to attend the summit.
As we’ve discussed, this group has made a lot of progress, and Russia has previously been part of that progress, although I think it’s also fair to say that they have not used the summit to highlight their own work in this area. They’ve chosen other venues to bring that forward. We do believe that this is a unique mechanism to spur more aggressive action towards success on important security priorities such as this, and we really hope that Russia, who, after all, hosted the very first Nuclear Security Summit back when it was still the G7+1 in 1996 – I think all three – Rose and Liz and I may all have been in Moscow for that meeting – they – we hope that Russia still shares the view that securing nuclear materials and combating nuclear terrorism are priorities well worth the personal attention of world leaders.
In terms of what happens going forward, obviously the summit is not intended to constrain any future leader from convening their colleagues to discuss nuclear security. This has been a hallmark of President Obama, and so there was a logic to concluding this particular format with his Administration. It was also a decision of world leaders taken at the summit in 2014 in The Hague that they felt that this was a good opportunity to move the energy of the summits into the enduring and durable international institutions. And so this is why we’ll be releasing these action plans that chart a more active and effective path forward for these five enduring institutions.
And in terms of a regular landmark on the national calendar, we really hope that the IAEA’s regular ministerial meeting on nuclear security – that they will hold the second version of this this December and they will hold regularly going forward – that that will be able to carry some of the momentum of the senior-level attention, and also of the deliverables of the – it being a moment for countries to bring forward and present to the world their progress, their pledges, their outcomes in their own work on nuclear security.
That is the way we have treated this conference. Secretary of Energy Moniz led the U.S. delegation at the very first in 2013 of these conferences, and we used that as an opportunity to bring forward several cooperative and national activities that we’re doing on nuclear security. We will be doing the same thing in December, and I’m really pleased that Secretary Moniz will also be leading the U.S. delegation at that point.
We hope that other countries represent at an appropriately senior ministerial level and that that helps that particular conversation both broaden the participation to all of the member-states of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and carry it forward with a structure that has an enduring capability. And so we’re looking to other summit countries and other countries to join us in that ambition for that meeting.
MODERATOR: Let’s turn to New York, please.
QUESTION: Hello there. Thanks for the briefing. James Reinl from Al Jazeera. Before this briefing, I spoke to a number of experts who work in this field. They’re not doomsayers, but they present a pretty bleak portrait of where we stand. They recognize the developments and improvements over recent years, but they point to significant gaps in the international architecture for nuclear security. Some of the things they pointed out to me were a lack of an international framework for keeping tabs on radiological sources, no focus on plutonium, and no focus on military materials. They also think that the five-agency follow-up process when the world leaders finish their task this week is going to be insufficient.
I’m not saying that this is the responsibility solely of the U.S. Of course, every country has got to play their part, but they’re saying there are still big gaps and there are going to be big gaps on Friday when everyone goes home. Are you worried about that?
MS HOLGATE: We obviously see it a little bit differently. I think to suggest that radioactive sources has been ignored is an absolute misnomer. Radioactive sources have been covered in every summit. There have been specific gift baskets highlighting steps that countries will take towards securing radiological sources, and we’ve seen a significant improvement in that over the last years, especially since the 2014 summit, in which I believe something like 30 countries committed to secure all of their most dangerous sources. And most of those countries, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, have met that pledge. Similarly, we expect to see further work on radioactive sources at this summit.
Plutonium has always been part of the summit process. To suggest that there’s no focus on plutonium, I think, misstates both the text of the documents and the reality that we are always talking about security of these materials. In many cases, these materials are part of our removals efforts and are part of the responsibility that every nation has to secure any plutonium that it holds. In 2014, there were specific pledges made on plutonium that countries would limit the accumulation of plutonium to what is absolutely needed within their own nuclear energy structures.
And in terms of military material, once again, every Nuclear Security Summit communique has explicitly referenced that material in weapons is covered by the commitments made, by the pledges made for security of that material. And the United States, in 2014, put forward some very explicit statements about our own security of military materials. We expect to make some similar statements this year.
The reality is that that conversation is not one that is going to be constructive held in a multilateral environment. That’s a conversation that is better kept to those countries who actually have such material. And certainly we’re hopeful. We’ve had that – we’ve used the summit to have those conversations, and we’re hopeful that those conversations can continue in other forums and venues, perhaps the P5+ process that Rose has so ably led.
So we certainly believe there’s more to be done, and I’ll be the first to say that – and I’ve said that already – and those are some of the areas where more can be done.
MODERATOR: Claudia. Center, please.
QUESTION: Hi. Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo.
PARTICIPANT: Sorry, I can’t hear you at all. Can you say that more loudly?
MODERATOR: It’s all – we just – if you could just --
QUESTION: Okay. Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo. Can you put this summit in perspective, like in which way it will be different from the previous summits? And I’d like also to know about the participation of Iran. Will Iran be present in the summit? Has Iran been invited? And how significant is the presence or the absence of Iran in these conversations?
MS HOLGATE: In terms of the summit participants, the goal of the summit invitees, as we laid out in the very first summit, was to – not to be a universal conversation, because there are other venues in which universal conversations can be held, but to rather be a representative conversation among countries who have multiple different perspectives, multiple different histories, multiple different futures regarding nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and so on.
And so I think when you look at the list of countries that is published today on the NSS 2016 website – if anyone is not aware of that, that will tell you all of the countries that are part of the summit – you will see this is not a likeminded group and it was explicitly intended to be diverse on the theory that if we – that diverse set of countries can find consensus, that’s especially powerful, and that it is representative of consensus that might prevail among even those countries who weren’t present.
There was an expectation that we would only invite countries that we expected to be constructive in that process – not necessarily likeminded, but participate effectively in that process. And in 2010, we did not see that Iran would be in that form. And since then, Iran has not been invited or participated in the summits, and they have not been invited this time.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much. Yes, sir, in front.
QUESTION: This is Tejinder Singh from the European Weekly and IAT. The most – what I’ve been hearing till now is very generic. Have you identified any countries, zones, regions which – from where the nuclear material can be – can go out or – there’s no particular – like Belgium, Pakistan, North Korea – these have been around. What is new today that you have to convey this – to get these all heads of – these heads of state together and the experts together, if you are not naming and shaming the people who are supposed to be culprits, you can call them?
MS HOLGATE: The purpose of the summits is not to name and shame. The purpose of the summits is to identify steps that we can take together, and certainly, individual steps that individual countries can make. And it’s a place to create peer pressure, if you will, but you will not hear us say in an official context or any other context that we have particular concerns about particular countries. Any nuclear material in any location is at risk and needs to be fully secured and fully protected.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And I would just add it’s important to hear this because this does not pertain exclusively to countries with military nuclear programs – any country that has research reactors for medical purposes, for example, countries that have nuclear power. There are sources of material spread across the world. And so we are all interdependent in the sense that those who have the least effective protection of their material put all of us at risk, and therefore, we have to come together through this process to work collaboratively to strengthen capabilities worldwide.
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: And if I could just make one last point: Laura’s already made reference to the website for the Nuclear Security Summit. I commend it to all of you. It does have some nice simple kind of graphics that will give you some sense of the detail that you’re seeking. We chose not to go through, step by step, everything that’s been done. But there are fact sheets and so forth available there, so if you are interested in digging down deep in the way you, sir, obviously are, it’s a very good source.
MS HOLGATE: And I will make just one more plug for the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Security Index. If you’re looking for someplace that does rate countries, you can find their ratings on their website.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. I’d like to have one question here, and then we’ll go to New York. Thank you. So, first here.
QUESTION: Hello, my name is Lara Wiedeking. I am with ZDF German Television. And despite the Administration’s accomplishments, if you look at the problems with Russia since late 2014, if you look at the risk of a dirty bomb that we’ve talked about in the hands of terrorists, some experts would argue that nuclear security has, in fact, worsened since 2009 and not only improved. What would you respond to that?
MS HOLGATE: Do you want to say something else?
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well, perhaps I’ll start on Russia. Laura already spoke about our disappointment that Russia did not participate in this Nuclear Security Summit. They participated in the three preceding ones, and indeed it was President Yeltsin in 1996 who hosted the very first Nuclear Security Summit. So there’s no question that Russia has had a vigorous policy with regard to nuclear security, and we have worked together in close cooperation and partnership over the years. For example, Russia just took upon itself the responsibility to remove the highly enriched uranium from Iran pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. So, close cooperation with Russia continues in a number of areas.
For those of you who are interested in the wider picture, we do continue to work with them on implementation of the New START Treaty, and despite the severe crisis and our differences with Russia over their incursion into Ukraine, they continue to implement the New START Treaty in a very businesslike manner.
The last example that I will mention is our project in 2013 and 2014 to remove 1,300 tons of chemical weapons from Syria. Not nuclear, of course, but very important at this moment in history to ensure that the declared chemical stockpile from the Assad regime was fully removed from Syria. And we worked very hard on that with an international consortium, but Russia was a full partner in that effort.
So the best thing I can say is it’s a mixed picture. There are areas of very sound cooperation with Russia where we are proceeding and continuing to make progress, but in other areas, frankly, we’re scratching our heads a bit as to why, for example, they are not going to be represented here in Washington at the Nuclear Security Summit.
MS HOLGATE: And I’ll just make a point that many of the accomplishments of the Nuclear Security Summits are irreversible. When you remove material from countries, that’s a permanent elimination of that particular threat, and we’ve done that for 14 countries and Taiwan since the Nuclear Security Summit. So those are countries where there’s no point in a nuclear terrorist going there because there’s nothing them – there for them to steal. And if you look even more broadly, as Rose said, we’ve reduced the number of countries with nuclear material by 50 percent in the – since the beginning of our work on this issue several decades ago.
We’ve also seen that countries are improving their – almost every country that’s been part of the Nuclear Security Summit process has enhanced their own domestic regulations governing nuclear security. That’s a critical baseline and that’s where you get actually the implementation and the enforcement of nuclear security is at the national level, because there is no international watchdog that enforces that, and so that’s a major improvement as well.
We’ve also come much closer to bringing into legal force some of the critical treaties, and Rose talked about why those treaties are so important in terms of creating the basis for prosecution but also creating a legal responsibility to secure material. And we have been pushing hard to get the amendment of the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials entered into force. We’ve seen a quadrupling of the countries who have ratified that treaty since the summit’s process.
And so we’ve – there’s always a requirement to recognize the evolution of nuclear security, so the threat evolves, and which is part of what’s underlying your question. It’s not the same world that it was in 2009. On the other hand, our security in the – within the United States and globally is also evolving, and that’s part of what needs to be continued into the future beyond the summits as part of the enduring responsibility of states and the international cooperative system.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Could I add to this point? Because I think it’s important to note that in addition to all the work on removals, one of the major focuses of this endeavor has been to make countries aware of their responsibility with regard to the material on their territory. And so the summit network of sherpas – Laura as the sherpa now – is a community of people assigned by their governments to think every day about how to enhance the security of the material that they have in their – within their borders and how to work collaboratively across borders to strengthen the international capacity to secure material, prevent the movement of material, and apprehend it.
And so I’d like to note something that we did that was unique in January. In the Department of Energy, we hosted with the Netherlands – which had been the summit host in 2014, as I indicated – we hosted a nuclear security exercise at our Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California for energy ministers from around the world from the summit countries. And the focus of this exercise was on challenging those who would have responsibility in a crisis to think about how they would respond and whether they had the tools at their disposal necessary in the case of the acquisition by a fictitious terrorist organization of highly enriched uranium that had gotten out of regulatory control.
And the conclusions of the ministers who participated emphasized the importance of having national capabilities that allow you to quickly determine what is at risk and, if you do not have the necessary capabilities at home, to know who you would call to secure the assistance you would need in understanding what the nature is of the material that would be missing; to have international cooperative mechanisms in place so you know who to work with in – first of all on your borders, because many of these crises would most likely involve those who are your neighbors; to have a communications plan in place, because the expectation, the demand for information by our citizens grows every day as we become more networked; and finally, reinforcing the value of what we did at Livermore, to exercise together, because we need to practice what we would do as an international community. So I would just underscore here that you should not measure success only by the very significant things that have taken place in the removals domain but also by the strengthening of the muscles of all the countries in the world participating in this process to prevent and, if necessary, respond to an international nuclear crisis.
MODERATOR: I’d like to turn to New York, please.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Gina Di Meo, ANSA, Italian wire service. More than once President Obama has said that Europe should do more against the terrorist attacks. Do you know if this “more” will be discussed in – discussed during the summit, and it – what would be this “more?” Also, given the fact that there’s going to be a special meeting, if I can call it that way, on ISIS and the migrant service – and also something specifically related to Italy, since the country is very exposed due to its geographical position. Thank you.
MS HOLGATE: I didn’t understand --
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Italy is very exposed due to its geographic position.
MS HOLGATE: Yes. Ah, okay. So I understood the – there was a question about the – how counterterrorism will be addressed at the summit, and the final session of the summit will include a discussion on counterterrorism, building out from a discussion of nuclear terrorism, of a specific nuclear terrorism scenario – not as elaborate as the Apex Gold exercise that Liz referenced, but that will provide a starting point for leaders to talk about how their steps taken during the summit has improved their ability to address a nuclear terrorism event, but then going more broadly to discuss counterterrorism and counter-ISIL more generally. And so that decision was made months ago. This has been in the works for quite a while, and all of the summit participants are aware that this was intended to be part of this conversation. And so we hope – we had no idea at the time that it would be as tragically timely as it is given world events, but I have confidence that the leaders will have a very interesting and meaningful discussion on that issue when they’re together on Friday afternoon.
MODERATOR: Okay, I think I’d like to take somebody from the back. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you. Anatoly Bochinin, TASS news agency, Russia. Follow-up on Russian side, Russia is not officially part of this summit. But can you expect that some representatives, maybe from Rosatom, will be in Washington these days? Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERWOOD-RANDALL: It is my understanding that none of our counterparts at Rosatom will be participating in the summit. We do have ongoing bilateral dialogue with Rosatom outside of the summit process right now, and I will note that a Rosatom observer participated as an observer in the Apex Gold exercise that I described at Livermore Lab, because we have had such meaningful work in the past with Rosatom on nuclear security.
MODERATOR: Okay, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Jennifer Chen with Shenzhen Media Group, China. I would like to know – how to put a unified international standard for security – of nuclear security among different countries, and also what we can expect about the updated technology on preventing the cyberattack in the summits? And for the U.S.-China nuclear security center, what specific project we can expect this year, and is there possible – I mean, the possibility in the future on the cooperation in the military field? Thanks.
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I’ll take the first two and let Liz talk about the second one. In terms of binding standards, it has been the judgment of the international community not to create those through treaty mechanisms and that the IAEA provides guidance, not legally binding standards.
When the 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials enters into force, that will become the closest thing we have to binding global standards on nuclear security, because they will take those guidance documents and the principles, the fundamentals of the IAEA guidance, and that will become accepted as a legally binding standard on those countries who have accepted that treaty. So we’re very eager to have this treaty come into force to fill that gap in the nuclear security architecture.
On cyber, there have been – in 2014 there was a important gift basket or joint statement coming out of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on information security that the UK had sponsored. And we’re expecting them to put forward another piece on the intersection of cyber security and nuclear security. And that, in fact, was a part of the – Apex Gold exercise as well. So it’s very much in the eye – in the mind of the leaders, and on the agenda of the summits, and also on the agenda of the International Atomic Energy Agency. They hosted their first-ever international conference on what they call computer security as it relates to nuclear security last summer. And we hope that they will continue to develop guidance and support for member states on the cyber issue.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And I’ll just add that on the center of excellence, our Secretary of Energy brought engineers and scientists from four of our national laboratories to China last week – from our Los Alamos National Lab, from Sandia National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, and our Pacific Northwest National Lab – for the opening of the center. And we will be collaborating with our Chinese partners to identify the best opportunities for strengthening nuclear security going forward.
MODERATOR: Okay. We have time for two more questions, I think. Yes, sir, in the center.
QUESTION: My name is Varughese George. I’m from The Hindu, India. Laura mentioned about the scope for improving bilateral relations with India on nuclear security. Can you just expand on the measure that India may have taken in the recent past to secure its own nuclear facilities? And what more do you expect India to do in the coming days?
MS HOLGATE: I’ll let India speak for itself on those points. I’m – it’s not for me to characterize their steps that they’re taking. But we – every country can do better, and we’re eager to work with any country who wishes to work with us to improve nuclear security.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. Manar Ghoneim, Middle East News Agency, Egypt. My question is regarding that Egypt has been calling for so many years to render the Middle East a free region of weapons of mass destructions – including, of course, the nuclear weapons. So my question is: Is there a chance that the U.S. Administration can permit such a call or can give a hand in the efforts to render the Middle East region of – free of weapons of mass destruction?
And another question is regarding the – you said that the terrorist groups, including ISIL, they – there are concerns of having access to a nuclear weapons. So do you have any concerns about other groups rather than ISIL? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Perhaps I’ll take the first question with regard to the idea of an initiative to develop a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Not only are we interested in pursuing this, but we already have been. And in fact, in the period of the recent NPT review conference, we were working very hard with Cairo as well as countries across the region to convene a conference of all parties in the region who would be parties to such a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone, and very keen to see that conference move forward. Of course, we were also very keen that all arrangements for this conference should be freely arrived at by all of the countries around the region, and that there should be consensus on convening the meeting.
And so very hard work to do. Of course, there are many disparate interests in the region, many different countries in the region. And so we were not able to succeed in the context of the review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty last May. But I will say that we are very keen to continue to work hard to bring this conference to fruition, to convene a conference on a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, to work with Egypt, to work with Israel, to work with other countries across the region to make it happen.
So I know it’s a very important day today. Your minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Shoukry, is here in town. And he, of course, is one who takes a great interest in these matters. So I think it’s important to underscore our continuing interest in working with Cairo as well as other capitals across the region to make this happen.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Well, I would like to thank Ms. Holgate, Deputy Secretary Sherwood-Randall, Under Secretary Gottemoeller, and Dr. Gowadia. Thank you very much. This concludes our briefing today. I wish you all a good afternoon and safe travels this week as the conference continues.