Kim Sung-hwan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, "Nuclear summit : beyond security toward peace"
By Kim Sung-hwan
We often say that we live in an age of uncertainty. In such times, it is only sensible that we hedge our risks and prepare for the unexpected. This has long been a tradition in the field of security and it only became more convincing after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. This incident made it all too clear that nothing is unimaginable.
This also applies to the danger of nuclear terrorism. One terrorist with one nuclear bomb could unleash such massive destruction that could dwarf all past terrorist acts. Currently, it is estimated that around 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tons of plutonium are stored in locations scattered around the world.
This is enough nuclear material to fashion some 126,500 nuclear weapons. According to the Illicit Trafficking Database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), more than 2,000 cases of illegal trafficking, theft or loss of nuclear and radiological materials have been reported around the world from 1993 to 2011, and of those around 60 percent have not been recovered.
The 9/11 Commission also reported on al-Qaida’s past desire to acquire nuclear materials and it has been known that other terrorist groups such as Aum Shinrikyo tried to get their hands on nuclear materials.
As such, when U.S. President Barack Obama laid out his vision for “a world without nuclear weapons” in Prague in 2009, he rightly pointed out that nuclear security is the urgent first step and foundation for realizing the ultimate goal.
Thus, the first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, D.C., last year, where 47 countries and three international organizations gathered to embark on an earnest effort to achieve a safer world by securing vulnerable nuclear materials.
Korea will take over the baton and host the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul from March 26 to 27 next year. This reflects Korea’s elevated international standing and the international community’s growing confidence in Korea’s peaceful nuclear activities.
This summit, which will be the largest ever to be held in Korea, will be attended by even more states than the previous summit. Such heightened interest shows that there is significant global awareness and understanding on the gravity of this issue.
As a premier security forum, the Seoul summit will consolidate the highest political resolve of leaders worldwide and take an important step in realizing a world free of nuclear terrorism.
By fostering substantial cooperation among both signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and non-NPT states as well as nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states, it will contribute to building confidence for efforts in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
Specifically, the Seoul summit will advance the vision and commitments made at the previous summit as laid out in the “Washington Communique” and the Work Plan comprising of 50 specific measures for cooperation in 11 areas.
They include: minimization of HEU; ratification of relevant international agreements such as the amended Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; and the establishment of Centers of Excellence to provide relevant training.
Building on the work from Washington, we will present new goals and identify practical ways to achieve them, as will be set out in the “Seoul Communique.” One of the focuses will be the interface and synergy between nuclear security and nuclear safety, which has emerged all the more important after the Fukushima nuclear accident in March.
Another important issue will be the threat of “radiological terrorism” which utilizes more primitive yet sufficiently devastating “dirty bombs.” Through these discussions, we hope the Seoul summit will contribute to restoring and renewing our confidence in nuclear energy in this nuclear renaissance.
As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated, just one nuclear terrorist attack could bring unwanted change to the world forever. We face a common security problem ― one which warrants our constant attention and immediate action. We must forge a strong alliance to serve this noble cause and invest today to prevent a catastrophe in the future.
Furthermore, with more than 50 world leaders gathering in Seoul to engage in discussions on key nuclear issues, the summit will also send a message on the vital importance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and contribute as such.
Kim Sung-hwan is minister of foreign affairs and trade.
Source : Korea Times