Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy forced the M/V Light, a Belize-flagged North Korean vessel en route to Myanmar, to return home, invoking the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an effort to stop trafficking in nuclear materials. In an email interview, Mark J. Valencia, a senior associate at the Nautilus Institute, discussed the operations and effectiveness of the PSI.
WPR: Briefly, how does the Proliferation Security Initiative operate?
Mark J. Valencia: The PSI does not create a new legal framework; rather, it uses existing national authorities and international law to achieve its goals. Initially, 11 nations signed on to the "Statement of Interdiction Principles" that guides PSI cooperation. As of January, 97 countries have committed formally to the PSI principles, although the extent of participation varies greatly by country. PSI has no secretariat and no stand-alone budget. An Operational Experts Group made up of 21 participating countries coordinates activities (.pdf). Essentially, it is an ad hoc, extra-U.N. "coalition of the willing" conceived, founded and led by the U.S.