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Forum to bolster peninsular security, Seoul’s standing

The Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul next month could send North Korea a clear message against its nuclear activities, and help boost Seoul’s diplomatic credentials, experts here said Thursday.

Although Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions are not on the main agenda, the premier security forum attracting the leaders of 53 countries and four international organizations will bring global attention to the peninsular security threatened by the North, they said.

President Lee Myung-bak also has high expectations for the summit, underscoring that it would help enhance the national standing on the global stage and secure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“The summit will be very helpful not only for international security, but also for our national security and for Northeast Asia,” Lee said during a press conference on Wednesday that marked the fourth anniversary of his inauguration.

“It will also raise public awareness here of nuclear security and safety, and help enhance national standing. In that regard, I believe the summit is very meaningful.”

Jun Bong-geun, professor and director of the Center for Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, said that the summit could send a “grave warning” against North Korea’s nuclear programs.

“Given that leaders of some 50 countries across the globe will come here and discuss nuclear security, this will give a grave warning to the North,” he said.

“There will also be discussions on stopping or scrapping nuclear programs that use highly enriched uranium and plutonium. This will send a signal that the principle against nuclear proliferation agreed upon (by the participants) also applies to the North.”

Jun also said that South Korea can gain international recognition for its initiative on peninsular security through the summit, which will in turn help boost its diplomatic profiles.

Experts say that Seoul should capitalize on the global attention the summit will attract to boost its “soft power” and promote its global role as a “middle power” nation.

“Culture, values and foreign policies are big assets that form the basis of soft power. Especially in the globalized 21st century, it is crucial to enhance soft power through foreign policies that can command respect from others,” said Lee Byung-jong, professor at the Graduate School of International Service at Sookmyung Women’s University.

“Seoul has gained recognition as it played a mediating role between the advanced nations and emerging economies during the Group of 20 summit in Seoul (in 2010). This time during the nuclear summit, we can play a ‘niche diplomacy’ by showing that we are actively seeking to help address global nuclear issues.”

Jeon of the IFANS said Seoul’s hosting of the nuclear summit will serve national interest in several aspects.

“The annual number of South Korean overseas travelers is around 12 million. Thus, should there be any nuclear terrorism or accidents in any part of the world, people of our country are likely to be affected. So international security and terrorism prevention are directly related to our national interests,” he said.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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