select languages
latestnewslatestnews RSS
Home > National > Politics/Diplomacy
(Nuclear summit) (News Focus) Modest outcomes for Seoul summit, bolder steps needed: analysts
SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- Nations gathered at a summit in Seoul pledged on Tuesday to work harder to better safeguard weapons-usable nuclear materials, marking a modest but important step forward in efforts to keep loose atomic materials out of the hands of terrorists, analysts said.

   But world leaders need to take bolder steps to effectively bolster global defenses against nuclear terrorism, they said.

   The Nuclear Security Summit, the largest diplomatic event South Korea has ever hosted, is the second of its kind since the inaugural gathering in Washington two years ago, hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

   At the end of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, top leaders from 57 nations and international organizations, including Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, endorsed the Seoul Communique, citing "substantive progress" in their efforts over the past two years to prevent nuclear terrorism.

   "Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security," the communique said.

   World leaders supported the "essential role" of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in "facilitating international cooperation" and reaffirmed their call to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials by 2014.

   A third summit will be held in the Netherlands.


"Several key steps should be taken prior to the next Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in 2014," said Ken Luongo, co-chair of the Fissile Materials Working Group, an international coalition of nuclear security experts.

   "States should institutionalize binding, comprehensive standards for security that emphasize performance and accountability," Luongo said.

   Outcomes of particular note from the Seoul summit include setting a target date of 2014 for amending a global nuclear security architecture called the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and voluntary commitments by several nations to eliminate their stocks of fissile material.

   On the sidelines, the U.S., France, Belgium, and the Netherlands announced plans to eventually phase out the use of highly enriched uranium in the production process of medical isotopes.

   The communique unanimously adopted by world leaders also encouraged nations to minimize the use of weapons-usable uranium by the end of 2013 through the conversion of nuclear reactors from highly enriched uranium to less risky low enriched uranium.


"These pledges represent the most concrete results from the summit and represent some useful steps forward," said Miles Pomper, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

   "If they are to be realized, however, the White House will have to be more active than it has been in winning congressional support for appropriate legislation and sufficient funding," Pomper said.

   In the aftermath of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, calls have grown for the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, to carry out more stringent inspections and for better cooperation and crisis management among nuclear regulators around the world.

   The potential threat of nuclear terrorism was highlighted by the Fukushima disaster because it showcased the extent of potential damage if terrorists were to sabotage key systems of a nuclear power plant such as its power supply or cooling system, experts said.

   Noting the Fukushima crisis, the Seoul Communique called for "the nexus between nuclear security and nuclear safety."

   Kim Du-yeon, senior analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, hailed the inclusion of nuclear safety and security in the communique.

   "It's an extremely significant first step, but the key is implementing and sustaining measures that strengthen the nuclear safety-security nexus beyond 2014 as long as we opt for nuclear power to meet our energy needs," Kim said.