World leaders vow to confront nuclear threat

Statement at end of two-day summit in Seoul pledges strong action and closer co-operation against nuclear terrorism.

World leaders attending a summit in the South Korean capital Seoul have pledged strong action and closer co-operation to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.

In a statement issued at the end of the two-day 53-nation nuclear summit, the leaders reaffirmed “shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy”.

“Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security,” it said.

“Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international co-operation given its potential global, political, economic, social and psychological consequences.”

The statement welcomed “substantive progress” on national commitments made at the  first nuclear security summit in Washington in 2010.

Action stressed

Before the summit concluded, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said nuclear terrorism remained a “grave threat”, while US President Barack Obama said action was important.

Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the group to work together on the issue.

“The planned missile launch North Korea recently announced would go against the international community’s nuclear non-proliferation effort and violate UN Security Council resolutions.”

– Yoshihiko Noda, Japanese PM

While the official agenda of the summit was to strengthen measures to track the movement of nuclear materials worldwide, much of the dialogue focussed on efforts to get North Korea to back off a planned rocket launch scheduled for next month and return to disarmament talks.

North Korea announced earlier this month that it would send a satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket.

Pyongyang has said the launch is part of its peaceful space programme and says a new southern flight path is meant to avoid other countries. Previous rockets have been fired over Japan.

The secretive North was widely criticised on the sidelines of the meeting, including by main ally China, but host Seoul has explicitly stated Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction programmes were off the table during the summit itself.

Defiant North Korea

On Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said that the launch would go ahead as planned.

North Korea ”will never give up the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes”’, the spokesman said in a statement in the official KCNA news agency.

A report by the KCNA also described the ”weather satellite” Pyongyang planned to launch as useful for ”the study of weather forecast needed for agriculture and other economic fields”.

Yoshihiko Noda, the Japanese prime minister, speaking at the summit, called on Pyongyang to cancel the rocket launch, saying that it would violate UN Security Council resolutions.

Nuclear stockpiles
  • Russia: 10,000
  • US: 8,500
  • France: 300
  • China: 240
  • UK: 225
  • Pakistan: 90-110
  • India: 80-100
  • Israel: 80
  • North Korea: fewer than 10

Source: Federation of American Scientists

“The planned missile launch North Korea recently announced would go against the international community’s nuclear non-proliferation effort and violate UN Security Council resolutions,” Noda said.

Obama had urged North Korean leaders to abandon their rocket plan or risk jeopardising their country’s future and thwarting a recent US pledge of food aid in return for nuclear and missile test moratoria, considered a breakthrough after years of deadlock.

On Monday while speaking at a university in Seoul, Obama said that he was pushing for “a world without nuclear weapons”.

Iran’s nuclear programme was also on the minds of the summit participants, as Obama met the leaders of Russia and China on the sidelines to work towards a resolution.

Obama had said that the threat of nuclear weapons remained a potent challenge for the globe to confront, telling foreign leaders that “the security of the world depends on the actions that we take”.

Neither Iran nor North Korea had participated in the summit.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies