Nations Divided on Focus of Nuclear Summit

Countries slated to participate in this month's Global Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea have differing opinions regarding the focus of the  high-profile event, the Korea Times reported on Sunday (see GSN, March 2).

Delegates from France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which together comprise four of the five recognized nuclear powers, last week met with other nations and organizations that have been invited to attend the summit, whose stated purpose is to prevent terrorists from accessing atomic substances for use in an attack.

More than 50 nations are expected to send heads of state and top officials to the March 26-27 summit in Seoul.

While the nuclear powers sought to focus attention at the Feb. 28 preparatory meeting in Seoul on the need to reach agreement on key nuclear security measures, other countries focused their attention on atomic energy plant safety concerns and topics that have not been included on the summit agenda such as the integrity of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

China, the world's fifth nuclear power, did not take part in the Feb. 28 meeting.

Diplomat Mark Tokola, who represented Washington at the meeting, said "I heard several speakers mention this morning that nuclear issues are interrelated. Well, they are also separate."

"We think that it is important that we focus at the nuclear security summit ... [on] preventing nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear materials either for terrorism or for criminal purposes," said the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. "We cannot allow the security summit here deal with issues that are not germane to its purpose."

While the meeting was originally intended to focus on building on gains achieved at the 2010 Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, the March 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic energy site in Japan necessitated the inclusion of nuclear power disaster prevention on the Seoul forum agenda.

For a number of diplomats at the meeting last week, "unofficial summit issues" and atomic plant safety were more important than dealing with potential nuclear terrorist strikes (Philip Iglauer, Korea Times, March 4).

The Philippines intends to use this month's summit to advocate for stricter security protocols over nations' atomic substances, BusinessWorld reported on Sunday.

"In the case of the Philippines, we have decided to push for a resolution at the summit calling for a much stricter monitoring and supervision in the transport, safekeeping and using of these resources," Vice President Jejomar Binay said in an e-mail to the news organization.
"That resolution should call for (International Atomic Energy Agency)  member states to give as much attention to these small high-grade uranium and plutonium resources as those being kept and safeguarded by member states which are in large quantities," said Binay, who is to represent the Philippines at the Seoul summit.
Binay noted there were many "peaceful uses" for weapon-usable plutonium and uranium but that even small amounts of those materials had the ability to "cause a lot of deaths and havoc to the population if they fall into the hands of terrorists."
The vice president called for the creation of a legal framework that would safeguard the secrecy of individual countries' intelligence resourceswhile also making way for criminal proceedings against accused nuclear material smugglers.
"Perhaps the subscriber states should thoroughly examine the cause of making the trafficking of fissile and similar materials a specific crime against humanity with commensurate penalties," Binay said.
At a recent nuclear security seminar in Manila, South Korean diplomat Hye Min-lee pointed out that there are presently 500 tons of plutonium and 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium.
"A possible linkage of nuclear materials with terrorism poses one of the most serious security threats to the international community," Hye said (Aubrey Barrameda, BusinessWorld, March 4).


March 6, 2012

Countries slated to participate in this month's Global Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea have differing opinions regarding the focus of the  high-profile event, the Korea Times reported on Sunday.