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Nuclear Security Summit Agrees on Measures to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism [ 2010.05.08 ]

[NewsJapan.net] The Nuclear Security Summit, which was held in Washington on the initiative of US President Barack Obama, ended on April 13 with the approval of a joint communiqué declaring that “Nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security” and vowing the establishment within the next four years of a system to secure nuclear material. The summit, which was attended by 47 states and 3 international organizations, for the first time affirmed international cooperation for the prevention of nuclear terrorism. Japan’s major newspapers reported the discussions and outcome of the summit in detail.

Multilevel International Cooperation to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism

President Obama, who advocated a “world without nuclear weapons” in a landmark speech in Prague in April 2009, released the Nuclear Posture Review report outlining new guidelines for US nuclear strategy on April 6 and two days later signed a new US-Russia nuclear disarmament treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that will reduce their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons.

There is, however, no system of international cooperation for the management of nuclear material, and the flow of nuclear material and nuclear weapon production technology to terrorist organizations is becoming a serious threat to the international community. Although the joint communiqué does not have binding power, the attendance at the summit of 47 states, and the heads of government of 38 states, including Japan and such nuclear powers as Russia, China, and France, is testimony to the fact that many countries share a serious concern about the threat of nuclear terrorism.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun (April 14, evening edition), the Nuclear Security Summit recognized that “Nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security” and issued a joint communiqué in which the participants agreed on the following points:
---to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years;
---to promote minimization of the use of highly enriched uranium;
---to reaffirm the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
---to recognize the need for cooperation to prevent illicit nuclear trafficking;
---to affirm the right of states to utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; and
---to hold the next Nuclear Security Summit in the Republic of Korea in 2012.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun (April 13, evening edition), at an evening dinner meeting on April 12, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced Japan’s plan to establish the Integrated Comprehensive Support Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Security for Asia (tentative name) at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in Tokai-mura, Ibaraki Prefecture, by the end of this year. The center will be involved in human resources development and will serve as a hub for the prevention of nuclear terrorism. In addition, Prime Minister Hatoyama declared that Japan and the United States will cooperate in the development of technology to detect and recognize illicitly trafficked nuclear material within a three-year target period. He also announced the Japanese government’s policy of providing $6.1 million (approximately 570 million yen) to support nuclear security projects in cooperation with the IAEA.

Editorials of Japan’s Five Major Newspapers (April 15, morning editions)

Pointing out that “The communiqué emphasized that measures should be taken to secure highly enriched uranium and plutonium, which are essential for nuclear weapons,” the Yomiuri editorial called for active involvement by the Japanese government. It stated, “Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed the establishment of a support center in Japan, as a key base in Asia, to provide knowhow on nuclear nonproliferation and the security of nuclear materials and to train specialists in the field. Japan has both a uranium-enrichment facility and a reprocessing facility to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. The use of such a center to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel should be taken up for discussion, given that enthusiasm for constructing nuclear power plants is growing in Asia.”

Drawing attention to the fact that “Unfortunately, the recognition of nuclear terrorism as a serious threat is not shared widely among developing countries,” the Asahi Shimbun editorial urged China to strengthen its efforts toward nuclear nonproliferation. It said, “Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed that his country will place great importance on nuclear security with a responsible attitude. North Korea and Iran, which are criticized for their nuclear proliferation problems, are both suspected to have been involved in trade in the nuclear black market. But China has not taken a tough stance toward the two nations. We want Beijing to work closely with the West to take effective measures to block illegal trade in nuclear materials involving the two countries.”

Regarding the idea, announced at the summit by Prime Minister Hatoyama, of establishing a support center for nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security, the Mainichi expressed its hope, saying, “As the only country in the world to have suffered atomic bombing, Japan should take the lead in efforts relating to nuclear weapons.” It went on to express its concern: “What worries us is that the response to North Korea is unclear. In the case of Iran, which, it is said, will be able to develop nuclear weapons in three to five years’ time, steps have been taken, including top-level US-China talks, toward the strengthening of UN sanctions. The decision to hold the next Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea can be seen as a shift of attention to North Korea, but nevertheless we do not sense any strong determination to halt the flow of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology from that country.”

The Nikkei editorial praised the summit, saying, “There were concrete results, too. Countries like Ukraine, which belonged to the former Soviet Union, and Mexico promised to completely dispose of their domestic stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, and Canada also announced that it would transfer its enriched uranium to the United States. Since it has been pointed out that systems for managing nuclear material are especially slipshod in the former Soviet countries, this can be described as a step forward.” On the other hand, though, The Nikkei also warned, “Nuclear power plants and facilities could be the target of terrorist attacks. At present nuclear power plants are operating in 30 countries and territories around the world. Amid the call to adopt measures against global warming and the sharp rise in energy prices, many developing countries also have plans to build new nuclear power facilities. That is why we need rigorous systems to protect nuclear material and nuclear power facilities.”

The Sankei Shimbun editorial commented, “Issues still remain in the strengthening of the NPT regime. In particular, regarding the issue of additional sanctions against Iran, the United States could be said to have drawn China and Russia over to a cooperative position, but in reality both China and Russia are negative toward the sanctions resolution. The decision to hold the next Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea in two years’ time is a sign of the participants’ strong determination not to tolerate the behavior of North Korea, which has ignored the demands of the international community and gone ahead with nuclear development.” It concluded, “Going forward, an important issue in the Security Council will be persuading Iran and China. We hope that Prime Minister Hatoyama will display his strength on this score as a reliable ally of the United States.”

(Copyright 2010 Foreign Press Center, Japan)

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