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Envoys discuss nuclear summit agenda

Korea’s chief nuclear envoy has outlined predicted topics to be discussed by international heads of state at the upcoming Seoul Nuclear Security Summit with foreign diplomats here.

Lim Sung-nam outlined topics that could be included in the March summit’s action plan at an ambassadors’ conference ahead of the event.

Lim, who is the special representative for Korean peninsula peace and security affairs, said that the communiqu for the Seoul summit may cover areas of major concern including the management, protection and transportation of nuclear materials and radioactive sources.

He said that while the exact terms of the summit were currently being discussed, it could also cover ways to enhance the link between nuclear security and safety, as well as means to prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. He also predicted that paragraphs on nuclear forensics and information security would also be included.

“Those are the issues to be handled in concrete terms by the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit,” he told envoys of the five recognized nuclear powers ― minus China ― who gathered on Feb. 28 to discuss nuclear security ahead of the attendance of their countries’ premiers at the summit.

While he stressed that “the peaceful use of nuclear energy will be indispensable for the sustainable development of our economies,” Lim explained that the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. had prompted governments to take in the possibility of non-state actors obtaining nuclear materials for a terrorist attack.

He also said that last year’s disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor had heightened safety fears.
Forum chair Sun Joun-yung (third from left) sits with envoys (from left) Konstantin V. Vnukov (Russia), Mark Tokola (U.S.), Scott Wightman (U.K.), Elisabeth Laurin (France) and Lim Sung-nam (Korea) to discuss the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. (Kirsty Taylor/The Korea Herald)
Forum chair Sun Joun-yung (third from left) sits with envoys (from left) Konstantin V. Vnukov (Russia), Mark Tokola (U.S.), Scott Wightman (U.K.), Elisabeth Laurin (France) and Lim Sung-nam (Korea) to discuss the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. (Kirsty Taylor/The Korea Herald)

“Just imagine if something really terrible had happened at Fukushima in the wake of the tsunami. The net result of the nuclear accident would be tantamount to what would happen in the case of an attack by non-state actors acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said. “Definitely there is a need to make sustained efforts to address the issue of nuclear safety and nuclear security in a coherent manner.”

Around 50 heads of state and international organizations are to visit Korea on March 26 and 27 to follow up on the first Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010.

The British, French and Russian ambassadors were joined by the U.S. deputy chief of mission at the conference sponsored by the Korean Association of International Studies.

Countries will be asked to sign a pact to secure nuclear technological information, according to the U.K. ambassador to Korea. Scott Wightman told the forum that the voluntary joint statement would help stop nuclear know-how from falling into terrorists’ hands.

He also called on academics to devise a kind of “Hippocratic Oath,” akin to the guidelines followed by doctors around the world, to promote best practice for people working in the nuclear field.

“A successful act of nuclear terrorism, wherever it might take place, would have catastrophic consequences worldwide,” he said. “As the international community works to spread the benefits of nuclear energy, we must act to ensure such an attack never takes place. This means preventing access to nuclear devices, materials and expertise to those who would seek to do us harm.”

He said that the biggest terrorism risks to tackle were increased access to nuclear information via the Internet, growing availability of nuclear materials as civil nuclear power programs expanded around the globe, and the threat of nuclear smuggling networks.

“Our continued focus on nuclear security is vital,” said U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Mark Tokola, also speaking at the event at the 63 Building titled “Establishment of a Global Nuclear Security Regime and Prospects for Nuclear Security Issues in East Asia.”

“A terrorist threat remains and will require a long term commitment. We must remain dedicated to improving global nuclear security beyond the Seoul summit and use the years ahead to advance practical steps for our objective of reaching a common goal of a world free from nuclear terrorism.”

And Russian Ambassador Konstantin Vnukov added that while nuclear technology was a key development strategy for Russia, it also placed great importance on strengthening physical nuclear security.

“We are ready for active and substantial work with the countries concerned and share goals and tasks of strengthening nuclear security including the framework of the forthcoming Seoul security meeting,” he said.

In her address, French Ambassador Elisabeth Laurin stressed the importance of allowing international agents to inspect civilian nuclear programs, adding: “France is ready to contribute actively to the success of this very important meeting.”

The envoys present also touched upon the importance of reducing existing nuclear weapons stockpiles ― but said security of nuclear materials from non-state actors was the key focus of the upcoming summit.

Chinese ambassador Zhang Xinsen did not attend the panel as scheduled.

By Kirsty Taylor (kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)
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