World leaders meet in Seoul to improve nuclear security
SEOUL | The two-day 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, which opens here Monday, aims to prevent nuclear terrorism by improving international cooperation and protective measures for atomic facilities and materials.
Key topics include nuclear safety in the aftermath of Japan’s post-tsunami nuclear reactor meltdowns last year and the security of atomic materials.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 2,164 incidents involving the unauthorized possession, loss or theft of nuclear and radioactive materials have occurred between 1993 and 2011. An estimated 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tons of plutonium, which can be weaponized, are scattered worldwide.
More than 50 world leaders, including President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, are expected to attend the Seoul summit, which folllows 2010’s inaugural nuclear security meeting in Washington.
“The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit will build on the Washington summit, which gathered the world’s political will on nuclear security,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sunghwan said in a news briefing. “It will be a ‘peace summit’ to give future generations a more peaceful and safer world.”
Mr. Kim said he hopes “concrete” steps on nuclear security will be taken in Seoul.
“First of all, we will renew the commitment of leaders on the importance of nuclear terrorism: This is very important — to highlight the political impetus,” said summit spokesman Han Chung-hee. “Second, we hope for substantial progress on HEU and plutonium minimization. And we have to show commitment to reinforce international security norms and mechanisms.”
The summit is expected to finalize agreements and wrap up Tuesday with a press conference in which its achievements will be outlined in a “Seoul Communique.”
A draft of the document obtained by The Washington Times lists 13 areas, including:
Urging countries to incorporate international agreements on nuclear security into their laws.
Calling for stronger state control over civil nuclear materials.
Upgrading best security practices in transport of nuclear materials.
Improving practices in nuclear forensics, the science of identifying atomic materials by their source.
Building on international frameworks to prevent illegal trade of nuclear materials.
Nuclear proliferation is not on the agenda, but North Korea’s nuclear program is likely to dominate side discussions as leaders meet for bilateral summits on the fringes of the conference.
North Korea’s regime has announced it will launch a satellite in April, which many experts consider a cover for a ballistic missile test.
“Technically speaking, the summit is supposed to cover nuclear security and that is more physical security of the materials, components and technologies,” said Dan Pinkston, who heads the International Crisis Group’s Seoul office. “North Korea is not supposed to be the focus of the summit, but, yes, I would expect it to come up.”
North Korean representatives will not attend the summit, which its staterun media calls an “international smear campaign.”
President Obama. with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, is in Seoul with other world leaders to discuss measures to safeguard atomic facilities and materials. South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said he hopes “concrete steps” will be taken during the summit, which opens Monday.