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G-8 Highlights Proliferation Threats

(Jun. 28) -U.S. President Barack Obama President, center, and other leaders from the Group of Eight nations laugh after having their photo taken Friday in Canada. The group issued an end-of-summit declaration that address Iran, North Korea and other proliferation concerns (White House photo). (Jun. 28) -U.S. President Barack Obama President, center, and other leaders from the Group of Eight nations laugh after having their photo taken Friday in Canada. The group issued an end-of-summit declaration that address Iran, North Korea and other proliferation concerns (White House photo).

Leaders from the Group of Eight global economic powers on Saturday highlighted the continuing danger posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, paying particular attention to the controversial nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea (see GSN, May 25).

"We cannot be complacent about the grave threat posed to the security of present and future generations by the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We therefore welcome the outcome of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, and will pursue the follow on actions it recommended by consensus. We call upon all states to do the same," leaders said in a declaration issued at the end of a two-day conference in Canada (see GSN, June 10).

Participants at the monthlong NPT conference in May agreed to pursue a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, while the five recognized nuclear powers -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- pledged to expedite disarmament efforts and to reduce the role that atomic arms play in their military policies. The conference also supported entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and establishment of a fissile materials cutoff pact.

The G-8 states -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- similarly pledged to "pursue concrete disarmament efforts" and lauded a new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control deal (see related GSN story, today).

"We call upon all other states, in particular those possessing nuclear weapons, to join these disarmament efforts, in order to promote international stability and undiminished security for all," the declaration says.

Leaders also urged "all states to take and support resolute action to address noncompliance with the treaty's nonproliferation obligations, including safeguards obligations" intended to ensure that ostensibly peaceful atomic programs are not turned toward military operations. Nations should sign safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the associated Additional Protocol, which allows for more intrusive U.N. checks of a nation's nuclear activities.

All nations should follow the terms of the latest U.N. Security Council resolution that heightened sanctions against Iran over the nation's contested nuclear program, the G-8 declaration states (see related GSN story, today). Tehran for years has refused to halt uranium enrichment activities that Washington and other governments fear is aimed at producing weapon-grade nuclear material, a suspicion strongly denied by Iran.

"While recognizing Iran's right to a civilian nuclear program, we note that this right comes with international obligations that all states, including Iran, must comply with," the G-8 leaders said. "We are profoundly concerned by Iran's continued lack of transparency regarding its nuclear activities and its stated intention to continue and expand enriching uranium, including to nearly 20 percent, contrary to U.N. Security Council resolutions and the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors. We call upon Iran to heed the requirements of the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and implement relevant resolutions to restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."

The document also said that leaders "deplore" the March 26 sinking of a South Korean warship and noted that an international investigation determined that North Korea was behind the incident that killed 46 sailors.

"We demand that the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea," leaders declared. "We support the Republic of Korea in its efforts to seek accountability for the Cheonan incident, and we remain committed to cooperating closely with all international parties in the pursuit of regional peace and security."

The heads of state also noted "our gravest concern that the nuclear test and missile activities carried out by the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea have further generated increased tension in the region and beyond, and that there continues to exist a clear threat to international peace and security" (see related GSN story, today).

They expressed support for resolution of the long-stalled six-nation talks on North Korean denuclearization and urged Pyongyang to meet its commitments under its IAEA safeguards agreement.

Proliferation threats are not restricted to governments, according to the declaration.

"We face a new era of threats from nonstate actors, particularly terrorists, who seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and related technology and materials," leaders said. "The consequences of failing to prevent this could be severe. We reaffirm our commitment to work together for our shared security, including fulfillment of the commitments we made at the Washington nuclear security summit, especially to work cooperatively to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years" (see GSN, April 14).

The leaders called on specialists from their governments to assess the gains provided so far by the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which in 2002 authorized $20 billion in spending over a decade for nonproliferation projects. The evaluation would act as a "point of departure" for extending the program, with an emphasis on nuclear and radiological security, biosecurity, scientist engagement and facilitation of the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540, as well as the potential participation of new countries in the initiative" (Group of Eight Musoka Declaration/Washington Post, June 26).

The Global Partnership has made significant gains in a number of counterproliferation projects in Russia and Ukraine, including those areas identified as priorities in 2002 -- chemical weapons disarmament, disassembly of retired nuclear submarines, dealing with nuclear-weapon materials and "redirection" of one-times weapons scientists, according to a G-8 report on the program.

Among the successes supported by the effort:

-- Disposal by December 2009 of more than 18,000 metric tons of Russian chemical-warfare materials, 45 percent of the nation's total stockpile;

-- Dismantlement of 112 of 120 decommissioned submarines in northwest Russia, along with 69 of 78 vessels in the nation's Far East. "Through the ongoing contributions of GP partners, it is expected that Russian submarine dismantlement work will be completed by 2012," the report says;

-- U.S.-Russian deployment of radiation detectors at border postings "to detect and prevent the illicit cross-border trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials." Ukraine is also receiving support from Global Partnership participants to augment its capabilities to deter trafficking of nuclear materials, according to the report; and

-- Establishment of thousands of research projects to provide civilian opportunities for scientists with WMD know-how.

"In light of the ongoing global scope of WMD threats, G-8 members continue to implement the Global Partnership’s geographic expansion as a means to address WMD challenges effectively worldwide," the report says."While working to complete chemical weapons destruction and nuclear submarine dismantlement projects in Russia, GP partners recognize nuclear security, biological security, and scientist engagement programming as important areas of cooperation to be addressed in other regions of the world. Partners also will continue to provide accurate information regarding the scope of their global activities" (Group of Eight Report on the Global Partnership, June 26).

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