[Viewpoint] Summit provides stage for KoreaThe Nuclear Security Summit, the second of its kind after the inauguration conference in Washington in 2010, will be held in Seoul from March 26-27. The high-profile event brings together leaders from 53 states and four international organizations. It is an extended global cooperative platform committed to the pursuit of the common ideal and goal of “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” It is meaningful that Korea has taken a leading role in global nuclear security by hosting the summit.
The top agenda is preventing nuclear terrorism, which poses one of the biggest threats to global security. We are familiar with the dangers of nuclear terrorism because it is often portrayed in novels, movies and TV dramas. But in real life, nuclear war would be an apocalyptic catastrophe that must never take place. Still, mankind is exposed to the threat. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates over 2,000 cases of nuclear or radioactive material have been stolen or gone missing since 1993. It does not know the whereabouts of about 60 percent of the material.
Worldwide, there are about 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium capable of producing 126,500 nuclear weapons. The collective nuclear security goal of the international community is to prevent these nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands.
To raise awareness on the changing security environment, U.S. President Barack Obama, in his April 2009 speech in Prague, pronounced nuclear terrorism as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” To buttress the international consensus on the theme, he hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010 in Washington, attended by leaders of 47 nations and three international organizations. Nuclear security has since become the keyword along with arms reduction and nonproliferation toward the goal of creating a world safe from nuclear weapons.
We expect two major breakthroughs in the upcoming Seoul summit. Participants will issue a communique laying out the principles of nuclear security. It will contain a strong international commitment to prevent nuclear terrorism. The action plans will be broad and concrete by including efforts to eliminate or minimize dangerous nuclear material, block illegal trade in nuclear material, enhance the universality of nuclear security treaties and support activities of international nuclear regulatory organizations or multilateral networks such as the United Nations, the IAEA, Interpol and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
Also, taking Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster as a lesson, global leaders will address the question of strengthening atomic safety and countering nuclear terrorism.
The summit is expected to generate new pledges from countries toward reducing the risk of nuclear terrorisn. In the 2010 Washington meeting, Ukraine, Mexico and Chile agreed to eliminate all highly enriched uranium. Works are underway to meet the obligations. Of 45 countries that once owned highly enriched uranium, 20 no longer have do. The number will likely be further reduced after the summit.
It is a diplomatic feat for Korea to stage such an important conference among global leaders after hosting a Group of 20 summit in 2010 and the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the world’s largest forum on international aid, in 2011.
Korea has been endowed with the role to lead global governance on international security as well as economic development. Korea can further improve its national dignity by living up to international expectations through the upcoming summit.
The Seoul summit will undoubtedly make a meaningful contribution to reducing the global nuclear threat. The forum will also be helpful to summit diplomacy. As the host country, our president can meet separately with major global leaders. We can use the stage to reinforce international cooperation and support in ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
* The writer is South Korea’s minister of foreign affairs and trade.
by Kim Sung-hwan