Marring nuke summit
Over-politicizing global meet could backfire
March will likely open another nuclear season. Japan is to mark the first anniversary of the tsunami-caused reactor meltdown in Fukushima, and Korea hosts a global summit on nuclear security. There is already a hot debate here on the pros and cons of atomic energy and the extent to which the anti-nuclear movement should go.
It has grabbed popular attention in this regard as the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) has joined the ``countermovement” to the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled for March 26 and 27.
There should be little unusual about such differing groups. It’s been some time since large international gatherings have attracted opposing rallies of nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations. So much so that the Davos forum has set aside space for these NGOs and NPOs.
Nor are the opponents’ allegations without some logic or reasons.
It is justifiable that they are taking issue with the imbalance of the scheduled summit, which deals with only nuclear security while ignoring nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, as two of the three pillars in blocking nuclear threats. Also plausible is their allegation that since Fukushima, nuclear safety has become a more pressing problem than nuclear security threats from terrorist groups.
To sum up, these anti-nuke groups and environmentalists are right to call for a nuclear-free world as a fundamental solution for security issues.
As everybody knows, it will take a very, very long time for the world to be able to live completely without nuclear energy, if at all. Admittedly Korea, with its heavy reliance on energy-intensive industries and undue dependency on fossil fuel, is one of the least prepared countries for a transition from nuclear to renewable energy. So it will be okay for, say, the Green Party which will make its debut in April, to use this occasion to call for facilitating such a policy shift.
But it is highly doubtful the same can ― and should ― be said about the DUP, which could virtually take over state administration as early as mid-2012. The party’s protesting of the summit would have been more plausible had it come far earlier, such as when the government expressed its will to host the conference. The belated opposition gives the impression that it is little more than just another vote-getting strategy by currying favor with progressive political parties and civic groups, like its pledge to scuttle the free trade agreement with the United States.
The only way for the main opposition party to shake off such suspicions is to make clear its ideological realignment from left-of-center to a leftist party, and await voters’ verdict this year.
That said, the Lee Myung-bak administration is not taking the right approach to the global meet, which will be attended by leaders from 60 major countries and international organizations. The government has not tried very hard to conceal its motivation behind hosting the expensive summit is to emerge as a major exporter of atomic power stations and add pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambition.
Neither objective suits the purpose of the forthcoming summit. The former runs counter to global trends toward gradually reducing the use of nuclear energy while the latter should be dealt with at nonproliferation conferences or the six-party talks.
All Seoul can expect from the summit is to portray itself as a country which, albeit forced to rely on nuclear energy, is determined to use it safely and peacefully. Otherwise, the host will appear to have an ulterior motive to a global cause. That’s bad national PR at a heavy cost.