Lee opens 2nd nuclear summit with world leaders

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Lee opens 2nd nuclear summit with world leaders


Leaders attend a dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at COEX in southeastern Seoul yesterday. [Joint Press Corps]

The Nuclear Security Summit is playing a significant role in creating a world without nuclear weapons, President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday, opening the second summit of its kind aimed to enhance global nuclear security.

During the reception and ensuing working dinner of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, Lee recognized the efforts made by participating states over the last two years since the first Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, according to the organizers of the Seoul summit. The top leaders from 53 countries and four international organizations are attending the two-day summit held at the COEX convention center in southern Seoul.

“The results of the working dinner revealed that there had been substantial progress since 2010 both on the Washington Work Plan and the individual commitments made by participating states,” the organizers said in a statement.

That is “effectively demonstrating that the Nuclear Security Summit process is indeed contributing to strengthening nuclear security based on a shared understanding of the danger of the threat of nuclear terrorism,” they said.

Most of the countries that attended the first summit have submitted “national progress reports,” outlining their achievements over the past two years, the organizers said.

At the Washington summit initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, leaders of 47 nations and three international organizations agreed upon principles and actions that were spelled out in the 12-point Washington communique and work plan.

Further commitments will be made during the Seoul summit, Lee said.

On Sunday, Lee said that the Seoul summit will produce commitments that will cut nuclear materials that could be used to make up to 20,000 nuclear weapons. That is around 20 times the amount cut since the Washington summit. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimated that until 2010, there were nuclear materials sufficient enough to produce 126,500 nuclear weapons. The U.S. and Russia have the most nuclear material.

“If countries all over the world muster strength incrementally, we could have a substantial outcome,” Lee told a joint media conference with Obama on Sunday. A third nuclear security summit is planned in 2014, and the Netherlands is expected to host it.

Obama had suggested a four-year timetable for achieving the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials.

During a speech at a Seoul college yesterday, Obama vowed for additional nuclear arms reduction. Under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Obama signed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010, the two countries pledged to limit the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550.

The renewed commitment during the Seoul summit will be summarized in the 11-point Seoul communique to be announced today, the organizers said.

Apart from the Seoul communique, several multilateral initiatives will encourage the participating countries to put their commitment into action, the organizers said.

In those initiatives, some countries making leading efforts in specific nuclear security areas will suggest joint action plans with the countries interested in them.

Last night, the U.S., the Netherlands, France and Belgium issued a joint statement on highly enriched uranium minimization and the reliable supply of medical isotopes during the summit, announcing their agreement on increasing the use of low-enrichment uranium for medical use and encouraging other countries to join them. Four or five other such group initiatives will be announced today, the organizers said.

New agendas such as the interface between nuclear security and safety and the prevention of radioactive terrorism will also be reflected in the documents.

The commitments made by the countries during the nuclear summits are nonbinding, which critics say weaken the significance of the summits. Hahn Choong-hee, Seoul’s spokesman for the summit, countered the criticism.

“They are decisions and commitments made by top state leaders, so in some way, they are as significant as legally binding agreements,” Hahn told a media briefing yesterday. “I believe each of the countries will regard them importantly.”

The Seoul summit is Korea’s largest-ever diplomatic event. The 53 participating countries cover 80 percent of the world’s population and 90 percent of the global gross domestic product. Among the leaders of the countries, 39 are the top leaders of the respective countries with the other 14 at vice prime minister-level or lower-ranking officials.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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