Summit ends but closure remains elusive
By Kim Tong-hyung
The second Nuclear Security Summit, an international gathering first convened in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama, is finally relegated to the books. But even in declaring the meeting a success, the world leaders walking out of conference rooms at the COEX weren’t in the mood to pop the champagne corks just yet.
Representatives of the 53 countries gathered in Seoul were in agreement that they were backing a productive outcome in defusing the threat of nuclear terrorism and improving the security of nuclear materials.
While some might have preferred the language of the communique, and the action promised to be more decisive, it’s hard to deny the recent summit provided hope that global efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation could become more sustainable and cohesive.
However, this appeared to be one of those meetings where the talk at the table didn’t matter as much as the discussions off of it. Preventing nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists and extremists is obviously a critical matter
But this is also an issue that has been upstaged recently by the disputed nuclear ambitions displayed by nations such as Iran, Syria, and of course, North Korea. While the nuclear activities pushed by these countries weren’t included on the official agenda, one could be assured they dominated the conversations on the sidelines.
When addressing the media, heads of states gathered here were quick to criticize North Korea’s plans to launch a satellite into space next month aboard a long-range rocket, which experts believe is likely to be connected to the country’s efforts to develop nuclear missiles. Pressuring Pyongyang into giving up on the launch, however, will undoubtedly be a difficult and tricky process.
So while the Seoul meeting will be described as progress, the excitement will be subdued. It’s hard to say that the world made a visible step toward finding closure to its nuclear security problems.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Sept. 11 attack on the United States in 2001, there have been increasing fears about nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists. And the controversial atomic programs pursued by the likes of North Korea and Iran have the concerns over nuclear security reaching fever pitch.
Estimates say as much as 1,600 tons of weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium exist in the world, sometimes stored under questionable security in former Soviet states and elsewhere.