Key gov’t officials look to pass revised nuclear bill

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Key gov’t officials look to pass revised nuclear bill

With only a week left before President Park Geun-hye attends the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the government yesterday asked that the National Assembly pass a revised bill posthaste on the physical protection of nuclear material and facilities.

The bill is needed for Korea to ratify the resolutions made at the previous edition of the Nuclear Security Summit two years earlier in Seoul.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won held a series of separate meetings yesterday with Assembly Speaker Kang Chang-hee, and Jun Byung-hun and Choi Kyung-hwan, the floor leaders of the main opposition Democratic Party and the ruling Saenuri Party, to persuade them to hold an extraordinary session this week to pass the bill.

But the prospect that it will pass remains unclear, especially given that the Democratic Party has not expressed affirmation. The collective move by the key government officials follows requests on Thursday by Saenuri lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Science, ICT and Future Planning Committee urging of the DP to hold an extra session for the bill’s passage.

“President Park Geun-hye can only save face at the Nuclear Security Summit only after the bills are passed. Please help us with an open heart, given the state-level urgency of the matter,” Prime Minster Chung said to Jun, the Democratic Party floor leader.

Bringing the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material into force is one of the priorities of the upcoming summit in the Netherlands, with the prerequisite being the international community’s ratification of crucial nuclear treaties - the amended Convention of the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Many countries in the summit have ratified the treaties, but because the Korean National Assembly has not yet passed the revised bill, President Park is on the verge of attending the summit empty-handed.

The bill was “not included in the urgent bills needed to be passed during the February session, and we did not have any idea before media reports,” Assembly Speaker Kang said.

Jun, the DP floor leader, also pointed out that no one from the government and the ruling party asked for the passage of the bill during the extraordinary Assembly session last month.

“[The bill] is something that the Korean government promised with the international community two years ago,” Jun said. “But the government has been putting off the work for the past two years, and now it is just putting pressure on the opposition party and the Assembly, which is not the least courteous or dutiful.”

Saenuri Floor Leader Choi stated that the Assembly should hold an extraordinary session by the end of this week to pass the bill.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]


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