Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
Established: April 1987
Membership: 34 States ─ Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.
In addition to formal members, there are "unilateral adherents" to the regime: Israel, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia. China's application for membership remains under review.
The MTCR is an informal non-treaty association of governments sharing common interests in the nonproliferation of missiles, unmanned air vehicles, and related technologies. The regime consists of the Guidelines and an Equipment and Technology Annex.
Background: Formal discussions on controlling missile proliferation began in 1983 among France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They were later joined by Canada and Japan, and in 1985, an interim agreement to control the proliferation of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, including dual-use missile items, was reached. A nuclear-capable missile was defined as one capable of delivering at least 500 kilograms (kg) to a range of 300 kilometers (km) or more. The G-7 States formally announced the Missile Technology and Control Regime (MTCR) on 16 April 1987.
Since then, membership has expanded to the present 34 States, the additional members being Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. Some other States, including China, India, Israel, Romania, and Slovakia, have pledged to abide by the MTCR Guidelines.
Regime Goal: The regime goal is to limit the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (i.e. nuclear, chemical and biological weapons) by controlling the transfers that could make a contribution to delivery systems (other than manned aircraft) for such weapons.
Regime Guidelines: The regime guidelines consist of national control laws and procedures; a two-category common control list; information-sharing on any denied cases to ensure no commercial advantage; no impediment to national space programs; presumption of denial of any transfers in terms of nuclear weapon delivery systems development; and no retransfers without authorization.
Equipment and Technology Annex:
Category I items of the Equipment and Technology Annex include complete rocket and unmanned-air-vehicle delivery systems and subsystems. The transfer of Category I items is subject to a strong presumption of denial. The transfer of production technology for Category I items is prohibited.
Category II items include propulsion and propellant components, launch and ground support equipment, as well as the materials for the construction of missiles. The transfer of Category II items is less restricted, but still requires end-use certification or verification where appropriate.
Verification and Compliance: The MTCR is an informal non-treaty association of governments sharing common interests, and therefore has no formal mechanism to enforce compliance. The implementation of the MTCR is dependent on the resolve of its Member States. The Member States usually deal with the implementation of the MTCR somewhat differently. The United States, being the most ardent MTCR participant, backs the implementation of the MTCR by a sanctions law, whereas other States have used a more low-profile approach. The only countries besides the nuclear-weapon states with long-range missiles or space-launch vehicles are India, Iran, Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. China's sale of some tens of 3,000-km range DF-3 (CSS-2) missiles to Saudi Arabia in 1988 — the only transfer of missiles having a range greater than 600 km (aside from the US sale of Polaris and Trident missiles to Britain) — caused an international uproar and helped strengthen measures such as the MTCR. No further sales have occurred.
2015: On 17-19 February, the 22nd Asian Export Control Seminar was held in Tokyo where the MTCR Chair, Ambassador Roald Næss, delivered a statement. He gave a brief update of the 28th Plenary Meeting in Oslo, addressing the importance of the MTCR and the concerns of WMD proliferation and calling for more formalized adherence.
2014: On 17 June, North Korea was accused of acquiring a copy of a Russian cruise missile called the KH-35. While the missile itself does not violate MTCR guidelines, it is prohibited by UN sanctions to export cruise missiles to North Korea.
From 29 September to 3 October, the MTCR held its 28th Plenary Meeting in Oslo, Norway. In addition to reemphasizing commitments to control missile technology exports and the need to prevent missile technology proliferation, partners also discussed various country issues such as DPRK and Iran. Partners also noted with concern the risks of WMD missile-relevant technology proliferation posed by Intangible Technology Transfers (ITT). This topic will be kept on future plenary agendas. With regards to the future, MTCR partners discussed internal operations of the MTCR and a future joint chairmanship between Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 2015-16.
2013: On 28 May Russia announced the sale of the S-300 missile defense system to Syria.
On 7 June Russia tested a prototype of a new intercontinental ballistic missile system based on solid-fuel which seeks to replace the Topol-M and Yars missiles.
On 1 October it was announced that a Chinese company under sanctions for doing business with Pakistan and Iran will build Turkey’s first long-range air defense and anti-missile system.
On 14-18 October, the MTCR held its 27th Plenary Meeting in Rome, Italy. Members discussed, among other issues, procurement activities and strategies for WMD programs, the risks of intangible technology transfers (ITT), technology trends in missile programs, and catch-all export controls for non-listed items.
Members noted that constant updating of export controls by MTCR member states would have a great impact. They also focused on how brokering, transit, and transshipment guidelines are exploited to evade export controls.
2012: 16 April marked the 25th anniversary of the MTCR.
On 17 October, the Republic of Korea and the United States agreed to extend the range of the Republic of Korea’s ballistic missiles to 800km. This range is beyond the guidelines set down in the MTCR.
On 24-26 October, the MTCR held its 26th plenary meeting in Berlin. Special concern was given to the issues of rapid technological change and the role of intangible technology transfers (ITT).
2011: On 13-15 April, in Buenos Aires, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) held its 25th Plenary Meeting to review and assess its activities and enhance its ability to prevent missile proliferation. The participants discussed the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems, and means of encouraging countries outside of the MTCR to contribute toward the efforts of the regime.
Partners discussed proliferation activities worldwide, concluding that MTCR could have even greater impact on preventing missile proliferation by making additional export control efforts.
Partners recognized the significance of UN Security Resolutions 1874 and 1992, among others, to the efforts of the MTCR, and the importance of implementing them. It was emphasized that countries with weak export controls can, without great burden, transfer technology and material useful for missile proliferation.
Members agreed to continue to share information on developments of missile programs and reinforce their efforts to encourage non-partner countries to implements the missile export control mandates under the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and to collaborate with the 1540 Committee.
No consensus was reached amongst the participants on the admission of new members into the group, but it will continue to be discussed in further detail.
On 18 November the MTCR updated its Equipment, Software and Technology Annex.
2010: On 10 September, the United States' Congressional Research Service released a report titled "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009." According to the report the United States questions China's commitment to the MTCR due to reports claiming that China sold sensitive missile technology to Pakistan, Iran, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The MTCR member states did not hold a plenary meeting in 2010, the next plenary meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 28 to April 1, 2011.
During a state visit to India on November 6-9, U.S. President Barack Obama announced U.S. support for India's entry into the MTCR.
2009: The 24th MTCR Plenary Meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 5-13 November 2009.The 34 members discussed the threat posed by the Iranian and North Korean missile programs and re-affirmed their commitment to conduct outreach visits to key technology holders outside of the regime. Additional materials and systems were added to the controlled goods list as a response to developments in the use of relevant technology. MTCR member countries agreed to clarify the meaning of "production facilities," the export of which is prohibited by the MTCR Guidelines for Category I. A significant agreement was reached by MTCR member countries on the control of tungsten and molybdenum on the MTCR Annex. New controls were added for copper infiltrated tungsten, silver infiltrated tungsten, and tungsten alloys in solid form. These controls are applied when these materials are used for fabrication of missile components for rockets or missiles capable of achieving a range equal to or greater than 300 km.
Information on future threats was also shared amongst partners, with findings reported back to the plenary session.
On 27 April, Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared it considered joining the MTCR one of its foreign policy priorities.
2008: The 23rd MTCR Plenary Meeting was held from 5-7 November in Canberra. The meeting was chaired by Mr. John Quinn of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.
Discussions emphasized the challenges posed by missile proliferation in Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, and partners noted the importance of implementing in a vigilant manner UN Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1737, 1747, 1803, and 1835. These resolutions relate to missile and nuclear tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the implementation of safeguards in Iran. Partners expressed their support for UNSCR 1540, and agreed that as MTCR Chair, Australia would continue contact with the 1540 Committee.
Partners reiterated their intentions to engage in cooperative outreach with non-member states in order to strengthen missile-related export controls on a broader scale.
Partners welcomed Brazil's offer to host the 2009 Plenary Meeting and to serve as Chair for the 2009-2010 term.
2007: The 22nd MTCR Plenary Meeting was held from 7-9 November in Athens and was chaired by Ambassador Eleftherios Danellis. Missile proliferation in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia were prime topics of discussion. Delegations also noted the direct relationship between the MTCR and UNSC resolutions 1718, 1737, 1747, and 1540. In particular, it was stressed that the MTCR Plenary Chair maintains contact with the 1540 Committee in order to facilitate and implement the export control process. Also, the Plenary agreed to several changes to the list of controlled goods while encouraging information-sharing for those non-listed items of proliferation concern.
Australia will host the next Plenary Meeting to be held in December 2008.
2006: The 21st Plenary Meeting held in Copenhagen convened from 2-6 October. The plenary was opened by H.E. Mr. Per Stig Møller, minister for foreign affairs of Denmark and chaired by Ambassador, Political Director Liselotte Plesner. Mr. Per Fischer, special adviser to the minister for foreign affairs on non-proliferation was confirmed as chair of the MTCR until the next plenary.
Partners exchanged information and discussed trends in missile developments, particularly expressing concern over missile proliferation in Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
MTCR partners noted the direct relevance of recent U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1696 to MTCR export controls and expressed their determination to implement the calls in these resolutions
The plenary also expressed its strong support for UN Security Council resolution 1695, regarding the proliferation threat posed by the DPRK's missile activities. The plenary voiced its determination for partners to fully implement the export control requirements in this UNSC resolution. Practical measures to implement these resolutions, including exchange of information, were also agreed upon.
In a broader context, the plenary reiterated its support for UN Security Council Resolution 1540. It confirmed the willingness of partners in a position to do so to assist non-member states as foreseen in the resolution and mandated the chair to pursue contact with the 1540 Committee.
Partners welcomed Denmark's intention to host an international conference on missile proliferation on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the MTCR in April 2007 in Copenhagen.
2005: The 20th Plenary Meeting was held in Madrid from 14-16 September, marking the start of the Spanish Chairmanship. Ambassador Manuel Viturro de la Torre was confirmed as the new chair.
Recalling the language put forth in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, partners to the MTCR particularly emphasized that the proliferation of WMD delivery systems constitutes a threat to international peace and security and therefore stressed the need to reduce the risks associated with terrorism in this regard. Furthermore, partners welcomed India's announcement that it intends to adhere unilaterally to the MTCR guidelines.
It was recognized that further action against missile proliferation remains a priority at the international and national levels and that export controls are an essential tool to address these challenges. The plenary also reaffirmed its commitment to strict implementation and enforcement of export controls by agreeing to a number of amendments to the MTCR Annex, including adaptations to and strengthening of existing rules to respond to technological developments and the evolving security environment. Also, in response to increasingly complex procurement situations, the plenary continued to examine matters such as intangible transfer of technology, transit and transshipment, brokering, and the activities of intermediaries and front companies.
Denmark is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 2006 Plenary Meeting.
2004: The Missile Technology Control Regime held its 19th Plenary Meeting in Seoul from 6-8 October 2004. The purpose of the meeting was to review its activities and further strengthen its efforts to prevent missile proliferation. The Plenary was chaired by Mr. OH Joon, Director General for International Organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea.
The Plenary welcomed the recently adopted Security Council resolution 1540. In this regard, the Plenary stressed the utility of effective national export controls. It called upon all non-MTCR members to apply the MTCR control list and guidelines. MTCR members in a position to assist non-MTCR members in this respect underlined their willingness to do so. Members acknowledged that the risk of proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery remained a major threat for global and regional security which must be dealt with at the national, regional and global level. In particular, they expressed their serious concern over missile proliferation in Northeast Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia, and reaffirmed their determination to continue discouraging missile program and activities of proliferation concern.
The Plenary also recognized the necessity of enhancing export controls, strictly implementing them and keeping them up to date with the ever-advancing technological development.
In response to increasingly sophisticated procurement attempts, the Plenary recognized the need to consider the issues of intangible transfer of technology; transit, transshipment and brokering controls; and the need to curtail the activities of intermediaries and front companies.
The Korean chairmanship was encouraged to pursue intensified outreach activities and dialogue with relevant states concerning export controls, transshipment and the fulfillment of the objectives of the MTCR.
Spain will host the next Plenary Meeting in the fall of 2005 and will serve as Chair of the MTCR for the subsequent year.
2003: The 18th Plenary Meeting was held in Buenos Aires from 19-26 September. At this meeting, the actions taken by members to prevent missile proliferation were reviewed. Participants identified missile proliferation as an issue that continues to threaten both regional and global security. To address this threat, proposals were made that called for MTCR members to engage in strict implementation, enforcement, and updating of export controls. Another area addressed during the meeting was the growing concern posed by terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. MTCR partners agreed to limit the risk of controlled items falling into terrorists' hands and called on non-MTCR members to do so as well. MTCR partners also decided to include national catch-all controls as part of the regime's guidelines. Catch-all controls will provide a legal basis to control the export of items that do not appear on a control list. The Argentine chair offered to contact non-MTCR members to encourage voluntary compliance with MTCR guidelines and increase awareness of proliferation risks.
2002: The 17th Plenary Meeting was held in Warsaw from 24-27 September to review MTCR activities and strengthen its efforts to prevent missile proliferation. The Members expressed the need for further efforts to limit the risk of controlled items and their technologies falling into the hands of terrorists. To this end, they adopted a joint Action Plan stressing the need to give the necessary impetus to actions to combat terrorism. The Members also decided to study how possible changes to the MTCR guidelines may contribute to this objective. The plenary also recognized that further action against missile proliferation was essential at the national, regional, and international level. In this regard, the MTCR Partners re-emphasized the important role played by export controls, the need for their strict implementation and enforcement, and the need for continued adaptation and strengthening of such controls to respond to technological developments and the evolving security environment. To this end, the plenary also decided to make a number of changes in the Regime's Annex (i.e. Control List).
Argentina is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 2003 Plenary Meeting.
2001: The 16th Plenary was held in Ottawa on 25-28 September to review MTCR activities and strengthen its efforts to prevent missile proliferation. The Partners expressed their concerns for global and regional security and agreed that more must be done at the national, regional, and global levels. MTCR Members confirmed that the tragic events of 11 September 2001 in the United States also reinforced the importance of the MTCR's work in that regard. During the 2001 plenary session, the important role played by export controls was re-emphasized and Members agreed on the need to strengthen them further. The need for the strict implementation and adaptation of export controls in the face of technological developments was also among the major issues discussed during the plenary. A draft Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was also adopted at the plenary session following a process of negotiation among Partners. The Members agreed that univerzalisation of the draft Code should take place through a negotiating process open to all States. The Plenary noted that France is scheduled to host the first negotiation session in 2002.
Poland will serve as the next MTCR chair and host the 17th Plenary Meeting on September 23 - 27, 2002.
2000: The 15th Plenary took place in Finland on 10-13 October. MTCR Members confirmed that WMD and their means of delivery posed the major security threat to global and regional stability and further deliberated on the responses to challenges posed by indigenous missile programs and missile exports. They agreed that the MTCR must continue to adapt itself to developments in technology and renewed their commitment to firmly implement their export controls and strengthen them if necessary. MTCR Members expressed willingness to promote dialogue with non-Parties, and to consult with them on the variety of aspects related to missile nonproliferation in order to encourage them to observe the MTCR guidelines. The issues of principles, commitments, confidence-building measures, and a "code of conduct" against missile proliferation were also discussed during the 2000 Plenary.
Canada is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 2001 Plenary Meeting.
1999: The 14th Plenary was held in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, from 1-15 October. MTCR Members agreed on the need for continued vigilance in light of developments in South and North East Asia and in the Middle East, with particular concern for the number of indigenous programs with increasingly longer-range delivery systems. Members renewed their commitment to combating missile proliferation and to the strict implementation of their export controls. Confidence-and security-building measures as well as increased outreach activities with non-members were discussed.
Finland is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 2000 Plenary Meeting.
1998: The 13th Plenary took place from 5-9 October in Budapest. Three new members, the Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine, were in attendance. MTCR Members agreed to make the regime more transparent. To that end, they supported the idea of establishing dialogues with non-Member governments. Members repeated their invitation to China to join, and issued a statement in which they expressed concern over the missile-related activities of North Korea. They also agreed to organize a seminar for border guards and customs experts in 1999.
The Netherlands is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 1999 Plenary Meeting.
1997: The 12th Plenary was held in Tokyo from 4-6 November. Members expressed their concern over missile developments in the Middle East and Asia, and stressed continuing restraint and vigilance in bilateral contacts with non-MTCR members. Members agreed to encourage non-members to abide by MTCR guidelines, in addition to reaffirming the usefulness of dialogues with transshipment centers.
Hungary is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 1998 Plenary Meeting.
1996: During the 11th Plenary Meeting, held in Edinburgh in October, the Members supported US initiatives to follow up on the success of the June/July 1996 meetings. The Members agreed to "be proactive in encouraging" key non-MTCR transshippers to adhere to the MTCR Guidelines and Annex, and to give them "practical assistance" to implement transshipment controls on missile technology. The Member States agreed on steps that could be taken to improve the regime's effectiveness in restricting missile proliferation in South Asia and the Persian Gulf. In addition, the Members agreed to increase the transparency of the regime's objectives and activities, and to pursue dialogue with non-MTCR countries to encourage their voluntary adherence to the regime's guidelines.
In July, the United States hosted an MTCR Seminar on Transshipment Issues in Washington, DC. Foreign policy-makers and specialists from 12 MTCR Member States and seven non-MTCR countries attended the seminar. During the seminar, a "productive exchange of ideas on how to impede proliferators' misuse of transshipment" took place. The participants identified a number of issues for potential future deliberation, which the United States addressed subsequently during the MTCR's 1996 Plenary Meeting in Edinburgh, on 7-11 October.
In June, the MTCR Member States held the regime's Reinforced Point of Contact Meeting on Regional Missile Proliferation Issues. Participants discussed actions that could be taken both collectively and individually to address specific concerns raised by missile proliferation in regions of tension.
Japan is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 1997 Plenary Meeting.
1995: The MTCR held its 10th Plenary session in Bonn, Germany, on 10-12 October. The meeting was attended by 27 Member States, including Russia and South Africa for the first time. The Members agreed to expand the regime's membership to include Brazil, and amended the Equipment and Technology Annex to reflect technical developments. The Members also considered the impact of missile proliferation on regional security and reaffirmed their commitment to preventing through export controls the proliferation of delivery systems capable of carrying WMD. The Members expressed a willingness to cooperate in space activities for peaceful purposes.
The United Kingdom is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 1996 Plenary Meeting.
1994: On 4 October, the United States and China issued a joint statement on "missile proliferation." The United States agreed to lift sanctions imposed on China (in August 1993) for missile exports to Pakistan. Once sanctions were lifted, China agreed not to export missiles "featuring the primary parameters of the MTCR." This Chinese commitment, according to the statement, goes beyond the MTCR's "strong presumption of denial" language. China also agreed to the US formulation on "inherent capability," that is, any missile capable of generating "sufficient energy to deliver a 500 kg payload at least 300 km, regardless of its demonstrated or advertised combination of range and payload."
At the plenary held in Stockholm in October, Members pledged to intensify their contacts and cooperation with non-Members in order to foster understanding of the purposes and goals of the MTCR. They reacted favorably to Russia's application for full membership.
Germany is scheduled to host and assume chair of the 1995 Plenary Meeting.
1993: The plenary held in Interlaken, Switzerland, in November-December, was devoted to planning the future of the regime. It was agreed to redouble efforts to persuade potential exporters outside the regime to abide by MTCR guidelines. The third update to the Annex was agreed upon and it became effective in July 1994.
At the plenary held in Canberra in March, it was agreed that MTCR Guidelines for missile-related transfers remain an essential mechanism for the prevention of the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
In July, Member States implemented two new Annex items: item 19 (complete rocket systems not covered in item 1, capable of a range greater or equal to 300 km), and item 20 (complete subsystems usable in item 19, but not in item 1, and production facilities and equipment for individual rocket stages and solid/liquid propellant rocket engines).
This was the second update of the Annex. The Annex was first amended in November 1991, with the addition of items 17 (materials, devices, and specially-designed software for reduced observables) and 18 (devices to protect rocket systems against nuclear effects), new definitions, and supplementary terminology.
Point of Contact:
Mr. Nicolas Bergeret
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2015.
The MTCR was established as an informal, non-treaty association of governments sharing common interests in the nonproliferation of missiles, unmanned air vehicles, and related technologies. It has 34 member states.