More than 50 heads of state and four representatives of major international organizations will descend on Seoul to participate in the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) to discuss ways to promote international cooperation and enhance protective measures for nuclear materials and facilities from being exploited by terrorists.
The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, the largest high-level forum in the security sector and the largest international summit, will be attended by 53 heads of state. The participating nations represent 80 percent of the global population as well as 90 percent of the world s GDP.
Among those expected at the NSS gathering, to be held in Seoul from March 26-27, are U.S. President Barrack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
Korean Foreign Minister and Chief of the NSS Preparatory Secretariat Kim Sung-hwan said in an interview, “The Nuclear Security Summit is the first step toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, and still another step toward the peace and safety of the international community.”
“The threat of nuclear terrorism is one which all countries must address, as acts of nuclear terrorism will bring about irreversible damage and loss with regards to human life, property, and the environment. Thus, the main objective of this summit is to ensure that the world s nuclear and radioactive materials and facilities are not misused for the purposes of terrorism,” Kim said.
Currently, it is estimated that 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tons of plutonium, which is enough nuclear material to make approximately 126,500 nuclear weapons, are scattered around the world. If terrorists detonated just a single nuclear weapon in the middle of a highly popularized city, it would take the lives of tens of thousands of people and also cause a catastrophe at the global level by paralyzing the interconnected global society and financial network in an instant. The political, social, and environmental consequences will be massive.
Since nuclear terrorism is a universal issue of the international community, the Nuclear Security Summit carries an important meaning in that world leaders gather to share a common perception on the threat of nuclear terrorism and discuss concrete actions to counter the threat. The Nuclear Security Summit represents the joint effort of the global community to elicit shared understanding and practical measures to bolster nuclear security. Nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy could be sustained. Moreover, nuclear security constitutes an important base over which three pillars of the NPT stand in realizing a world without nuclear weapons.
The most important outcome of the 2010 summit was the shared recognition among heads of state of the urgency and seriousness of the threat of nuclear terrorism, and the subsequent rallying of political commitment to address the issue.
The 2012 Seoul NSS will set the stage for the discussion of concrete measures for realizing the goals outlined in Washington, namely, combating the threat of nuclear terrorism, protecting nuclear materials and related facilities, and preventing the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.
Also, with heightened international interest in nuclear safety since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in March 2011, the expansion of nuclear safety measures will be on the agenda.
Although the North Korean nuclear issue is an extremely important international issue, it is not on the agenda of the 2012 NSS. Participants from key nations, including those of the four countries closest to the Korean Peninsula, will likely take up the North Korean issue through bilateral talks.
At the end of the 2012 Seoul NSS on March 27, the participating leaders are to issue the Seoul Communique, which will first outline the goal of minimizing stocks and use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Other issues addressed will include the nexus between nuclear security and nuclear safety, the strengthening of international cooperation to prevent illicit trafficking, the sharing of advanced technology with developing countries, and a call for more countries to commit to international agreements and initiatives dealing with nuclear security.
The Seoul Communique and the measures it outlines comprise a declaration of political commitment, not a legally binding mandate. Nonetheless, as an agreement signed and adopted at the head-of-state level, the implementation of its measures will be very important, the Korean foreign minister said. He said, in Washington in 2010, some 30 states publicly pledged their commitment to carry out specific measures for improving nuclear security, and today, most of these states have fulfilled their commitment and are actually in the process of introducing new measures.
Throughout the preparation process, he said, the Korean government has emphasized the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit as one to be carried out “with the people.” “This goal will define our efforts in the days ahead, as we work to educate the public regarding nuclear security and its importance and relation to our daily lives,” he said.