Importance of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

A single terrorist with a nuclear bomb has the power to unleash massive destruction.

Japanese nuclear power plant  390 (photo credit: Issei Kato/Reuters)
Japanese nuclear power plant 390
(photo credit: Issei Kato/Reuters)
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 demonstrated only too clearly that even the unimaginable can happen. One of the most serious security concerns the world faces is the danger of nuclear terrorism. A single terrorist with a nuclear bomb could unleash massive destruction.
When US President Barack Obama presented his vision of “a world without nuclear weapons” in Prague in 2009, he emphasized that nuclear security is the first step and foundation for realizing the ultimate goal.
The Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010, initiated by Obama, was the first occasion on which nuclear security and safety were discussed at the highest level. Korea will host the Second Nuclear Security Summit on March 26 this year. The Seoul Summit is expected to be the largest gathering of its kind, attended by more than 50 heads of government including Israel, and key international organizations.
While the Washington Summit of 2010 was a great success in heightening awareness of the dangers of nuclear terrorism, the Seoul Summit aims to expand and deepen international cooperation for the prevention of nuclear terrorism.
Nuclear security and preventing nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorist groups or rogue regimes emerged as a real concern following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The challenge of securing the loose nuclear material left in the former Soviet Republic was successfully negotiated and handled to the great relief of the world community at that time.
There are approximately 1,600 tons of enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium in the world, which could be used to produce no less than 126,500 nuclear bombs. It is well known that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups want to acquire nuclear materials. According to the IAEA, some 2,000 cases of theft or loss of nuclear and radioactive materials and substances including highly enriched uranium have been reported over the past 20 years.
The safety of nuclear facilities has emerged as an even more pressing issue in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011. The Fukushima disaster has emphasized the need for setting clear safety measures to be taken in cases of natural disaster or terrorist attack. Once they happen, both can lead to similar consequences.
In this regard, the Nuclear Security Summit has a key role to play. Indeed, In the era of globalization, so-called universal issues should be dealt with through the efforts of the international community. The nuclear threat does not respect any borders – it is not the concern of one or two states alone. It has the potential to cause enormous damage that could be felt in many places – and the consequences would last for a long time to come.
The Seoul Summit is a unique gathering as it brings together both nuclear and non-nuclear powers, NPT and non-NPT countries, developed and developing countries. This summit shall present an opportunity for world leaders of different backgrounds to agree on measures for a world free of nuclear terrorism.
Israel is no stranger to terrorism and nuclear terrorism threats. The current reality in the Middle East poses major challenges. The fall of some neighboring regimes and the instability of others has lead to an increased risk of nuclear terrorism. Indeed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor emphasized the importance of this issue while attending the Washington Summit in 2010.
Korea, just like Israel, is at the forefront of the threat. The two countries are under constant threat and intimidation by regimes that are no strangers to nuclear capabilities.
Seoul was chosen as host of the forthcoming Summit not least because the stability of the Korean Peninsula is of great concern to the international community, mainly because of the nuclear weapons program persistently pursued by North Korea. It is our sincere hope that the Seoul Summit will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue.
Since Korea and Israel are located in two of the most potentially volatile parts of the world, they can understand each other’s security and stability predicaments and problems. Korea looks forward to Israel contributing in meaningful ways to the success of the Seoul Summit. This will tremendously benefit both countries and indeed the world.
The writer is the ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Israel.