Back To Top

Seoul, Washington agree to discuss ‘nuclear safety’ in multinational summit

In the run-up to the Nuclear Security Summit next year, South Korea and the U.S. agreed that “nuclear safety” should top the agenda of the multinational conference scheduled for Seoul, the Foreign Ministry here said Tuesday.

As the host of the international conference usually plays an important role in setting the agenda, the North Korean nuclear issue was expected by analysts to be the main focus of the 2012 summit. The summit will also deal with a broader spectrum of non-proliferation issues than the previous meeting in Washington, they said.

The first round of the Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington last year, with some 50 state leaders and chiefs of international agencies gathered to discuss how to better safeguard weapons-grade plutonium and uranium to prevent nuclear terrorism.

The second round will be held in Seoul in 2012, with participants holding preliminary negotiations in June and October in South Korea and Finland, respectively.

Meeting here Tuesday, Seoul’s Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs Kim Bong-hyun and White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction Gary Samore reached the consensus that nuclear safety has become a critical issue, especially after the recent radiation leak in Japan, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Concerns have been mounting worldwide as Tokyo has been struggling for months to deal with the crisis at its earthquake-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant and the ensuing radiation contamination.

The two representatives also discussed ongoing nuclear ambitions by North Korea, which revealed to an outside expert a new uranium enrichment facility in November. The communist state’s uranium program may be dealt with in the summit next year, sources said.

Samore will also meet with Seoul’s chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac and other ministry officials before heading back home, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The Nuclear Security Summit is the largest gathering of heads of state called by a U.S. president since the 1945 U.N. Conference on International Organization.

After the 2010 summit, a non-binding communiqu was issued to recognize nuclear terrorism as “one of the most challenging threats to international security.” Among other agreements, participants had agreed to work cooperatively as an international community to advance nuclear security and recognize that highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium require special precautions.

At the end of last year’s summit, U.S. President Barack Obama had signaled probable agenda priorities at the 2012 conference, which include taking specific and concrete actions to secure the nuclear materials and preventing illicit trafficking and smuggling.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR