Nuclear security summit
Nuclear security summit
In about a month, Seoul will host a massive international event ― the second nuclear security summit. The two-day event starting March 26 will be larger than the G20 summit held last October. It will attract heads of state from some 50 countries and representatives from four international organizations. It will be a global forum to cope with possible nuclear terrorism, illicit trafficking of nuclear materials and the safety of nuclear facilities.
The summit has a nuclear-free world as its goal. Such an aim takes time to accomplish. What is urgent is to prevent nuclear-related terrorism and accidents until humankind manages to rid itself of the weapons and facilities. The event will surely help the nation elevate its prestige in the international community.
Despite the significance of the upcoming summit, it is somewhat strange to see less enthusiasm and public interest in it here. This compares with the hectic atmosphere seen before the G20 Seoul Summit. One reason is the nation faces two crucial elections this year.
The April 11 parliamentary election has been clouding all other issues including the March summit. What is deplorable is some forces’ attempt to undermine the crucial international gathering. The opposition parties have come under criticism for attempting to exploit the nuclear issue to woo voters ahead of the general elections.
The anti-summit coalition composed of some 40 civic organizations and political parties are moving to make the event an election issue. They set March 19 to 27 for a period of intensive action with various forums, press conferences and rallies. In a press statement, they raised measures to prevent the trading of nuclear materials. “This has been causing a dispute over its legitimacy. With its aim at North Korea and Iran, initiated by the United States, it has also been intensifying the military tension in Northeast Asia and the Middle East.”
They also cited the need to abolish nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants before discussing non-proliferation. Despite the anti-nuclear campaign, their motive is to steal the limelight and garner voter support ahead of the parliamentary election.
The opposition parties have recently decided to shed their campaign tactics of calling for the nullification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) in the face of an apathetic public response. Now they are trying to ride on a sort of anti-Americanism allegedly prevalent among voters in their 20s and 30s.
Currently there are some 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium around the world. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Interpol, some 200 to 250 cases of theft and loss of nuclear materials take place annually.
If a terrorist group obtains nuclear materials to make nuclear warheads, it would lead to disastrous consequences with a huge number of casualties. The first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington led to 17 countries signing a treaty for the protection of nuclear materials and 12 striking a pact for the deterrence of nuclear terrorism. The Seoul summit seeks action plans to make progress on the outcome of the first one.
We vividly remember the catastrophic situation in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan on March 11 Korea heavily depends on nuclear energy with numerous nuclear plants on its comparatively densely populated soil. President Lee Myung-bak Wednesday pledged efforts to make the nation one of five key nuclear power nations by the end of this year. He also stressed the importance of successfully hosting the Seoul summit. Lee has been suffering from lower approval ratings in recent surveys. It is high time to listen to the appeal of the head of state to enhance national prestige and crucial nuclear safety regardless of whether one approves of him or not.