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Speeches: 2019 Regional Religious Freedom Forum: A Civil Society Dialogue On Securing Religious Freedom In The Indo-Pacific Region

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom - Taipei Religious Freedom Conference, Taipei, Taiwan

Samuel D. Brownback

Samuel D. Brownback

I would like to thank President Tsai’s comments and her for taking the time to be here out of her busy schedule. I can’t help but just stand up here and cheer you, and be so thankful for so many people who gather here for the cause of religious freedom around the world. Thank you for being here.

Millions of people around the world, billions of people around the world just simply yearn to be free. They just want to practice their faith and freedom. We come from all sorts of faith tradition. As I look out on this crowd, I see people dressed in different religious garb, that we probably don’t agree on a lot of theological things, but they do agree on religious freedom and the needs to protect religious freedom for all. This is something we can all agree upon. This is something we can all pursue. This is something we have to do. I believe, a gathering like this throughout the world, can ensure for millions of others that they will be free from persecution in practicing their faith, which is what we are after is a freedom to do that, and I believe they will.

I am delighted to be here in Taiwan. As a U.S. official, Taiwan is a democratic success story, a reliable partner, and a force for good in the world. We count ourselves fortunate to have Taiwan as a friend and partner in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. As a former U.S. Senator and Governor of the State of Kansas, I have long admired Taiwan and its accomplishments from afar, and I am delighted to finally have the opportunity to visit Taiwan in person. It is a pleasure to be here with you.

I would also like to thank Speaker Su, who is also chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Deputy Foreign Minister Hsu from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and my colleague Director Christensen for being here from the American Institute in Taiwan for all their hard work that their staffs have done in making this conference a success.

As you have heard this is a first. Governments haven’t in the past physically come together in support of religious freedom, and yet we have here. Let’s give them a big round of applause for pulling this off. Thank you.

We are going to have a couple days of wonderful programs. One of the first things I want to recognize right at the outset, because I hope he is somebody you will get to know and I hope somebody you will work with to build on what the type of work is that Greg Mitchell over here..Greg please stand up. Greg is at the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. In Washington, D.C., every Tuesday that I am in town, I meet with the religious freedom activists. And these are people from all over the world, they usually have over 100 people who come together to talk about the current issues of religious freedom that are on the agenda. Greg hosts that meeting. It is a great meeting together between government and civil society of the topic of religious freedom of what we can do in basically two categories: the increase in religious freedom and the increase in respect in the non-religious as well. We should not just tolerate each other. A good friend of mine says, tolerance is too low of a bar. We need to keep respecting each other. We need to have an authentic relationship with one another. I hope you talk with him about how to start one of those in your country with your group of civil society religious activists, so that we can have religious freedom in your nation growing, and have activists there to push it and to increase that level of respect for one another, whatever our faiths and convictions are.

I also, before I get to my formal remarks, would like to recognize these survivors of religious persecution that are here with us.

We did the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom last year in Washington D.C., the first ever. We had over 400 civil society activists that were there. The key speakers were people who had been persecuted for their faiths, from all sorts of faith, and from all places around the world. They brought textures and meaning and stories of what happened to so many people around the world. I am so thankful that they are willing to travel here today to tell you what has happened to them. There is nothing like hearing first-hand what has happened to those who were persecuted. I want to just recognize several of them as they are here.

Y Phic Hdok is a young Montagnard Christian. Could you please stand? Thank you. We believe police killed his father. He is participating in the conference to speak on behalf of both Hmong and Montagnard Christians who have been rendered stateless because of their faith by Vietnamese authorities. We thank him for being here to share his testimony.

Dawa Tsering, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama here in Taiwan, grew up in a Tibet under Communist occupation, which demonized and criminalized the Buddhist faith that lies at the core of Tibetan civilization.

We need to remember all too well the things that happened to him during his childhood. We appreciate Dawa’s attendance of this conference, and we will continue to support the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach for meaningful autonomy for all Tibetans across the Tibetan Plateau while remaining a part of the People’s Republic of China.

This month marks the 60th anniversary of His Holiness being forced into exile. Tibetans understandably continue to lament his absence from Tibet, and long for the day that he is able to return and resume his rightful place as their most important religious leader. We urge the PRC authorities to resume formal dialogue with His Holiness or his representatives immediately.

We also want to recognize as well Rushan Abbas. She is a human rights advocate, founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs, an organization that promotes human rights and democratic freedoms following the deterioration of the human rights situation in the PRC’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The activism she has had has come at a cost. In 2018, six days after she spoke publically about the repression of Uighur Muslims in China, including the detention of members of her husband’s family, two more members of her family – her sister and aunt – disappeared.

Unfortunately her story is not unique. Numerous Uighur expatriates have reported that Chinese officers aim to silence Uighurs abroad by detaining family members.

We thank Rushan for her courage during decades of activism to help the Uighur people share with the world the truth about what the Chinese government is doing to them. It has clearly resulted in personal sacrifices that most of us find difficult to imagine. And yet she has endured it.

And finally, I would like to acknowledge Pastor John Cao, who is not here unfortunately, nor his family members. His wife, Jamie, is American. She is a bold advocate for Pastor Cao’s release. A year ago this month, Chinese authorities sentenced him to 7 years in prison. His crime was providing aid and education to disadvantaged children in China and Burma. That’s what he did and today he’s held in a 26 by 10 foot cell, with a dozen other prisoners. He’s permitted to see sunlight just once a month. His wife and sons aren’t allowed to visit him. We call yet again for his immediate release.

Thank you to all of you that are here to testify and to speak of your situation, and to bring your texture and your personal stories the ways in which [inaudible].

Now we all support the right of an individual to have religious freedom. Promoting religious freedom worldwide is a top foreign policy priority for the United States, and certainly for this administration.

In my capacity as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, I advise the President, and Administration officials on the challenges to religious freedom around the world. I am focused on how we can advance this universal, God-given right globally.

Your presence here speaks to the importance of promoting religious freedom. The time for action has, unfortunately, never been more urgent.

A large majority of the world live in countries or areas where the freedom for practice their own faith is severely limited, prohibited, or in extreme cases can be deadly. Pew Research Center actually puts the number at more than 80% of people live in a religiously-restricted atmosphere.

People across the globe are oppressed, brutalized, and in some cases killed for seeking to practice their faith or live according to their beliefs or conscience. Others face persecution, discrimination, and harassment. We cannot let this continue.

In my own personal experience, I have found Asia’s faith communities to be vibrant and brimming with devotion. Yet the scourge of persecution across the region affects those of all religions. We see this persecution in many countries.

Though Vietnam passed a law in 2016 that has allowed some religious organizations to become legally recognized, local authorities have targeted members of independent, unregistered religious groups by interrogating or arresting them for purportedly being “anti-government” or separatist. One practitioner of the Hoa Hao Buddhist faith returned from a meeting with my team to find his property destroyed. This is unacceptable.

In Indonesia, the government must address the use of blasphemy laws, particularly against religious minorities.

In Malaysia, though religious freedom is guaranteed in its Constitution, non-Sunni Islam is illegal.

Since 1999, the U.S. Secretary of State has designated China and Burma both as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

In my first trip abroad in this position, I visited Rohingya Muslims in refugee camps in Bangladesh. After decades of persecution and repression, Burmese security forces committed terrible acts of violence and drove out almost 700,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya since August 2017.

Burmese officials have continued to persecute the few Rohingya who remain in northern Rakhine State. We have heard credible reports regarding the harassment of Christians, Muslims, and members of other religious minority groups elsewhere in Burma.

In China, authorities have arbitrarily detained more than 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other members of minority Muslim groups in internment camps since April 2017. Tibetan Buddhists are not able to select, educate, or venerate their religious leaders without government interference. House church leaders are detained and their churches are shuttered in accordance with tightened restrictions on religion enforced by the Chinese Communist Party. And Falun Gong practitioners are reportedly tortured and detained by the Chinese government.

As I mentioned in a speech I gave in Hong Kong a few days ago, what does the Chinese government have to fear from people reading the Bible or Uighurs naming their children Mohammad? The Chinese are a strong and vibrant people. They do not need to fear people who have strong religious beliefs or convictions. Instead, the government should promote the protection of the rights of its people to practice their beliefs and worship as they see fit.

I am committed to fighting for the rights of all to believe or not to believe as they see fit, and for all to be able to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without threat. Not just the freedom of religion or belief, but also the freedoms of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly.

Like people can do here in Taiwan should be the norm for everybody throughout the region in the world.

The freedom of the soul to choose its own course is an inalienable right. And this is why I love this job so much. It is the defense of the pure and noble and beautiful. That is what we are all about. We are defending people that all they want to do is practice their faith without fear of persecution. It is the defense of truth and the right of every man, woman, and child.

For me, this work in action means building a more whole-of-government approach to pursuing religious freedom. And it means calling on all nations to uphold respect for the universal human right to freedom of religion as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ladies and gentlemen. We cannot afford to fail. There are millions of people cowering in corners now, simply wanting to believe and yet in fear. With your help, we must redouble our efforts to expand religious freedom.

We need your active participation in this cause. To make progress, we need more people to get in the ring, to stand up for religious freedom, and to advance it worldwide. We need all of you and many more to work with the broader religious freedom community, all around the world.

This regional conference is aimed at members of civil society groups, like yourselves. Your participation is vital, but it is only the first step. Civil society is often the first to report of these atrocities and instances of persecution. You are often the first to offer support to those who desperately need it. You are on the front lines, and without you, we cannot do our job effectively.

That’s why I want to see you empowered and even more. We rely on your efforts to press governments to act. We rely on your insight to better understand where persecution, discrimination, or violence is heating up. And we look to you to help us craft the right responses to impact the most people.

We need you to help us increase individuals’ awareness of their rights, empower them to assert their rights, and fight for them when governments or non-state actors seek to infringe upon those rights.

We need better coordination and action within the broader, religious and advocacy communities. That’s a good part of what this event is about. Consider what resources you need to do your work on religious freedom topic you are passionate about. Bring people into the religious freedom roundtable. Bring them to the next Ministerial that will be held from July 16 to 18 in Washington, DC. A global, pulling together of foreign ministers around the topic of religious freedom. Get individuals on social media or in the press.

With persecution continuing around the world against members of religious minorities, the United States wants to partner with our friends and allies on ways we can advance freedom of religion—particularly through education, particularly through advocacy with you.

Governments participating in the Ministerial were encouraged to host regional follow-on conferences to allow for more context-specific discussions, and to facilitate greater civil society participation.

Two weeks ago, we held one in Abu Dhabi that was focused on educational materials. This event is a key conference. Plans are underway for other meetings in Mongolia, Morocco, and Europe.

Another way you can get involved is by creating religious freedom roundtable discussions, as I mentioned earlier, doing this where you live.

Together, as a community with shared values—government, civil society, and faith communities—we can and will advance religious freedom.

With the full participation of all individuals, including religious minorities, societies can much better fulfill their potential and advance human dignity that strengthens peace, security, and prosperity, like it has here in Taiwan.

By God’s grace, life always triumphs over death, freedom overcomes oppression, and faith extinguishes fear. This is the source of our hope. And our confidence in the future, that religious freedom would be the hallmark of the world, that the gates of religious freedom would fly open around the world, and religious oppress, the Iron curtain of religious oppression would come down around the world; and that the people practicing their faith now can do so in peace.

Thank you for being here and part of this great cause, and God bless you all.

Remarks On The Release Of The 2018 Country Reports On Human Rights Practices

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

Good morning, everyone. Since America’s founding, the concept of individual rights has been woven into the national fabric. As my friend and scholar Mary Ann Glendon has written, it has given weak members of our society, quote, “an instrument to amplify their voices” and also allows us to, quote, “train a spotlight” on the appalling violations of human life, liberty, and dignity that occur every day in many parts of the world.

Consistent with our strong rights tradition, today it is my honor as Secretary of State to announce the release of the 2019 Human Rights Report. Now, every year since 1977, the State Department has through this report put the world on notice that we’ll expose violation of human rights wherever they occur. We have told those who disgrace the concept of human dignity they will pay a price, that their abuses will be meticulously documented and then publicized.

By articulating abuses and pressuring noncompliant regimes, we can effect change. We’ve certainly seen that. Over the years, this report has pushed governments to change course and cease engaging in brutality and other abuses. We hope that it will continue to do so and cause oppressive regimes to honor human rights in places where those voices are often silenced and where deep yearnings for tolerance and respect have for too long gone unfulfilled.

This year’s report evaluates the practices of roughly 200 countries and territories. It represents a giant collaboration between hundreds of officers at U.S. missions around the world and here at the Department who are doing the Lord’s work in defending the dignity of their fellow man. I’m proud of each and every one of them.

I wish I could say that the record of every country evaluated in this year’s report is spotless or even improved, but it’s simply not the case.

Take Iran. Last year, the regime killed over 20 people and arrested thousands without due process just for protesting for their rights. The government banned media outlets from covering the demonstrations. This continues the pattern of cruelty that the regime has inflicted upon the Iranian people for the last four decades.

Meanwhile, in South Sudan, military forces waged sexual violence against civilians based on their political allegiances and their ethnicity.

In Nicaragua, when citizens peacefully protested social security benefits, they were met with sniper fire. Critics of the government have faced a policy of exile, jail, or death.

Then there’s China, which is in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations. In just 2018, China intensified its campaign of detaining Muslim minority groups at record levels. Today, more than 1 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims are interned in reeducation camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities. The government also is increasing its persecution against Christians, Tibetans, and anyone who espouses different views from those or advocates those of government — or advocates change in government.

Even some of our friends, allies, and partners around the world have human rights violations. We document those reports with equal force. Our aim is always to identify human rights challenges and use American influence and power to move every nation towards better, more consistent human rights practices.

As I suggested at the beginning, our committed defense of human rights stems from America’s founding principles. It’s our tradition. America is founded on those self-evident truths that each of us is endowed with the rights that cannot be forfeited. They are the ones upon which no government anywhere in the world should be allowed to tread. Our Constitution codified those rights into law, and with time, they became not known as American rights, but more fundamentally across the world as human rights.

Internationally, indeed, they were incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 30 short articles. Scores of countries have looked to these documents for their inspiration as they drafted their own constitution and founded their own nations. Today, the State Department continues to play a leading role in championing human rights across the globe, honoring the vision of our founders and expressing our time-honored American aspiration for all people to be free.

By issuing today’s report, we deploy the truth – the truth about abuses occurring around the globe – as one of the most powerful weapons in America’s diplomatic arsenal. Thank you, and I’ll now turn it over for questions to Ambassador Kozak.

Europe And Eurasia: Lithuania National Day

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

On behalf of the people of the United States and our government, I wish to congratulate all Lithuanians on the 101st anniversary of restoration of your independence. Sveikiname!

Together, over the course of the past year, we have celebrated your centennial anniversary and all that you have achieved since your declaration of independence in 1918. We were proud to host President Grybauskaite at the White House in April 2018, along with the presidents of Estonia and Latvia, for the U.S.-Baltic Centennial Summit and the U.S. Baltic Business Forum. In honor of the Baltic centennial anniversaries, we also hosted over 100 youth from across the region to the United States on U.S. government exchange programs.

Throughout 2018, we amplified our close partnership as Allies, including through major NATO exercises like Saber Strike and BALTOPS in June 2018. We commend and thank Lithuania for its significant contributions to security and stability in the region and beyond, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, and note that Lithuania is already dedicating two percent of its GDP on defense spending. In 2019, Lithuania will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its accession to NATO and we are grateful to have such a steadfast Ally.

In 2019, we commemorate 30 years since the 1989 revolutions including the fall of the Berlin Wall and democratic milestones like the Baltic Way, which ushered in an era of unprecedented freedom and prosperity for the region and for our transatlantic community. The United States is proud to partner with Lithuania in that community. May the next 101 years continue to deepen the strong ties between the United States and Lithuania.

Arms Control And International Security: Autonomy, Technology, And National Security: The Case For Reforming The Missile Technology Control Regime

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Hudson Institute

Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford

Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford

Good morning, everyone — and thank you to the Hudson Institute for the chance to say a few words to all of you today.

The United States’ proposal to make an adjustment to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Annex as they relate to unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has been the subject of detailed discussion already in the MTCR for many months, and the MTCR’s Technical Experts Meeting (TEM) has explored our proposal extensively from a technical perspective. I would like to say a few words about the reasons why we believe this modest reform of part of the MTCR framework is both necessary today and an important part of keeping the MTCR relevant and effective in the years ahead.

It almost goes without saying that the MTCR is and remains a valuable nonproliferation instrument, and one that we are committed to preserving — but I will say so nonetheless, for I wish there to be no misunderstanding about the U.S. position. We have been steadfast proponents of the MTCR from its beginning, and holding ourselves and international partners to its standards of nonproliferation “best practice” is an important and enduring aspect of our approach to nonproliferation and the preservation of international peace and security against the destabilizing spread of systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We remain steadfast in our commitment to the MTCR.

Yet for all its accomplishments in slowing such proliferation and helping underpin peace and security, the MTCR is an ageing regime. It and its Guidelines, in fact, are more than three decades old. For a system setting standards of conduct that are based upon highly specific technological parameters, this is in many ways an extremely long time.

As we consider what specific parameters should continue to be enshrined in the MTCR in the years ahead, we must not forget just how extraordinarily long a time this has been in technological terms. The formulation of the MTCR, for instance, predated the invention of text messaging, and its drafting preceded the introduction of the first crude smart phone by more than a decade. When our predecessors were trying to figure out what technological standards should be written into the MTCR framework people were still a few years from figuring out how to distribute audio and video over the Internet, the number of Internet websites in the entire world was in the low hundreds, the first widespread computer virus had not yet appeared, and the first permanent Internet connection between North America and Europe had not yet been established. Indeed, iconic modern technology-driven or -facilitated firms that are now household names — companies such as Amazon, Yahoo, Netflix, Ebay, Facebook, Tesla, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Alibaba, and Baidu — did not exist.

So that was the technological environment of the time, and the world was clearly a very different place. But the world of the MTCR’s birth was also a vastly different place in economic terms. China’s per capita GDP was only a handful of hundreds of U.S. dollars, for instance, and the boulevards of its cities were still crowded with bicycles. (Indeed, in key respects, it is actually hard to say what China’s GDP actually was at that point in the first place, for in those days China still measured its GDP by Soviet-era metrics.) There were no McDonalds restaurants in any country ever ruled by a Communist Party, and South Korea had yet to finish its transition to the democratic and capitalist powerhouse of the Sixth Republic that still exists today. For its part, the Soviet Union was still a monolithic block, still maintained its imperial control over the countries of Eastern Europe, and had not yet begun its efforts at economic restructuring (perestroika) that helped lead to such momentous change in the region.

In technological and economic terms, in other words, the environment in which the MTCR’s technological parameters were established was an entirely different universe from the one we inhabit today.

Make no mistake. Nothing was wrong — nor is anything wrong today — with the animating principle of the MTCR: that nonproliferation principles require restraint and circumspection in transferring systems that could conceivably be used to deliver WMD. This remains as important a principle as ever. What fidelity to this key principle means in practice, however, cannot ignore the whirlwind of technological changes that have been taking place in the world.

Not surprisingly, the MTCR framework is today somewhat outdated. A system that fixed in place technical standards based upon military hardware of the Cold War era, its approach to UAS predates the extraordinary revolution in UAS development that has occurred in recent years. That revolution — which is still underway, and in many respects picking up steam — has seen an explosion in UAS applications and technology that has, among other things, seen the emergence of increasingly broad ranges of systems that technically fall within MTCR Category I standards but that are not as significant in terms of WMD-related threats.

Though not threatening in the way that the MTCR aspired to prevent, however, these emerging UAS are very valuable, and increasingly subject to a great range of diverse uses entirely unrelated to WMD, not just for military purposes — e.g., having become essential in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance applications, and having an emerging roles in areas such as logistics — but also throughout the civilian economy, science, industry, commerce, logistics, safety, environmental management, forestry, agriculture, entertainment, recreation, and more. This is a fast-growing sector, and soon to be quite a huge one.

Not surprisingly, the great value of these systems and their growing diversity has led to a growing demand for UAS, including for systems technically within the Category I framework, and this demand has elicited a growing supply.

But MTCR Partners are to an important extent shut out of much of this exploding market, unable to participate fully in the commercial benefits of this booming sector — because of the high hurdle imposed by the MTCR’s reflexive presumption of denial for all Category I systems — and with their governments unable to reap the full benefits of the relationships that UAS engagement can bring as countries around the world seek to expand their capabilities into these diverse new, non-WMD-related areas.

But other suppliers — and in particular those outside the MTCR framework, who are not bound by its strictures and who may feel no special obligation to scrutinize proposed transfers from a rigorous nonproliferation perspective as we do — are not shut out in this way. Indeed, for them the MTCR is a tool of competitive advantage against MTCR Partners. Against all of us. Such other suppliers are increasingly stepping in where MTCR Partners find it difficult to tread because even non-WMD-relevant UAS systems are covered by strict Category I rules with their associated presumption of denial. Under the right circumstances and with appropriate nonproliferation assurances, of course, it is not impossible to overcome a presumption of denial, but having to overcome such hurdles for the modest subset of Category I UAS that are in reality not a WMD-related threat represents a considerable impediment — and, we think, an unnecessary one.

This situation harms not just the competitiveness of MTCR Partners, but also the MTCR itself — and the cause of nonproliferation. It puts needless pressure upon the MTCR and could threaten its long-term integrity, for institutions that do not know how to be appropriately flexible in a changing world risk shattering. Nor does continuing this rigidity stop the spread of UAS, because non-MTCR supplies are stepping into this market.

Indeed, the system’s current rigidity fails to provide real nonproliferation benefits either, because the growing sources of foreign supply for increasingly capable UAS mean that these systems are spreading anyway. And because non-MTCR suppliers of such equipment seldom feel the need to approach their transfer-related decision-making with the nonproliferation-focused scrupulousness that we and other MTCR Partners display, even for non-Category-I systems, allowing such non-MCTR suppliers to occupy this competitive terrain essentially uncontested means that nonproliferation equities will get less and less respect over time — unless, that is, we do something to fix this problem.

In reaction to all this, the United States has proposed a way out of the trap caused by the MTCR’s rigidity in the face of UAS-related technological change.

We have proposed to carve out a carefully-selected subset of Category I UAS for treatment as if they were Category II systems. This subset is based upon a maximum speed value — which would, in effect, update the MTCR framework to allow more permissive treatment of run-of-the-mill, basically non-WMD-related modern UAS that are useful, and indeed in today’s world all but essential, for a range of non-WMD military and an exploding universe of peaceful civilian applications.

This change, however, is carefully limited, and would avoid relaxing MTCR rules on the sorts of WMD-related systems that it has always been the great virtue of the MTCR to restrict. Things such as ordinary, slow, fixed-wing UAS — along with rotary wing systems and lighter-than-air craft — would be subject to somewhat more flexible Category II rules. But cruise missiles, advanced unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and hypersonic aerial vehicles would still be covered as Category I items, as they should be.

Our proposed MTCR reform would continue to ensure that transfers of any covered UAS — including the ones for which we propose to relax some Category I restrictions — remain subject to careful nonproliferation considerations, pursuant to well-established MTCR principles. They would also be covered by the new standards of international conduct that are currently being negotiated to cover the uses of UAS, an important additional project that is important to the future of the nonproliferation regime, and that I hope all of you will also support.

Under the new approach, however, the MTCR would no longer rigidly apply its strong presumption of denial under the strictest, Category I rules to a subset of UAS that in reality have essentially nothing to do with WMD but a great deal of potential in the growing global UAS market. This would facilitate commerce in less threatening systems, and ease the worrying pressure that is building upon the MTCR regime, but it would do so without causing proliferation harm — and indeed while helping preserve the MTCR’s integrity.

In fact, by helping preserve or increase the market share and international engagements of MTCR partners who doapproach all such questions with real nonproliferation integrity — at the expense of unscrupulous suppliers who have hitherto been benefiting from overly rigid MTCR rules and unless the system is reformed will continue to do so — the more flexible approach we propose would likely have net nonproliferation benefits rather than costs.

The United States first suggested this approach in a concept paper over a year ago, and we have presented technical explanatory papers on multiple occasions to walk our MTCR partners through the details. We have also modified our proposal on the basis of these very helpful discussions.

It is now time, we believe, to move this proposal forward, before the damage done by the MTCR’s UAS-related rigidity gets any worse. A regime that sets its standards on the basis of technological parameters cannot long ignore whirlwinds of technological change, and the bough that does not flex in such a gale risks breaking.

This is a reasonable idea, and a prudent one, and we believe its time has come. We will continue to work to seek MTCR Partners’ support to modernize controls on UAVs.

Thank you.

Sri Lanka’s National Day

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I extend to Sri Lanka very warm wishes as you commemorate your national day.

The United States remains eager to build on our partnership with Sri Lanka and advance shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region based on our common democratic values. Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions and constitutional processes have ensured your country’s continued advancement. We look forward to working together to further deepen ties between our nations, promote shared prosperity, and secure a stable and peaceful future.

As you celebrate your national day, I extend my best wishes for peace and happiness in the year ahead.

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