Expectations for the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Jun Bong-Geun, Professor and Director, Center for Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security. IFANS


The second Nuclear Security Summit will be held in Seoul on March 26 – 27, 2012. Leaders of 53 countries and international organizations will take part in the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, the largest of its kind ever in Korea and the largest summit on world peace in the world. The fact that Seoul will host the Nuclear Security Summit, following the 2010 G20 Summit, the highest global economic forum, demonstrates that Korea is emerging as a global leader in the drive toward world peace as well as a major economy. During the Cold War that persisted nearly half a century, every country lived under constant fear of nuclear war. Such a calamity would have meant the annihilation of the human race. The end of the Cold War was followed by an unprecedented event: the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the United States, which swept the whole world again with fear of ‘nuclear terrorism.’ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats we face today.” He warned that “a single nuclear terrorist attack would cause mass destruction, acute suffering, and permanent, unwanted changes.” In April 2009, US President Barack Obama outlined his vision of a ‘nuclear- free world’ in his historic Prague speech. He specifically proposed measures for prevention of nuclear terrorism and the holding of the Nuclear Security Summit towards that end. His selection as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner attests to the international community’s expectations of his efforts for non-proliferation and nuclear security. In the Washington Nuclear Security Summit held in April 2010, President Obama announced that Korea would host the second Summit. Why was Korea chosen as the host of the second Nuclear Security Summit, and what expectations does the international community have of Korea? Many countries have a far wider spectrum of interests and wield greater clout in the nuclear field, but Korea was selected as the host in recognition of its rising international stature and, most of all, the international community’s high expectations of Korea. The widespread recognition of Korea as an exemplary country with regard to non-proliferation, nuclear security, and peaceful use of atomic energy was also a major consideration in its designation. As a middle power, Korea is acknowledged as capable of pursuing ‘bridging diplomacy.’ It is cut out for the duty of coordinating wide-ranging interests between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states and between nuclear powers and non-nuclear powers in the Nuclear Security Summit in order to attain a common goal. This naturally begs the question: what are we trying to accomplish through the Seoul Summit? Firstly, Korea’s successful hosting of the Nuclear Security Summit will provide an opportunity to assess its leadership in world peace just as the Seoul G20 Summit exhibited its economic leadership. The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, following the appointment of Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General, will substantially bolster the country’s diplomatic and security standing. Secondly, prevention of nuclear terrorism safeguards our core national interests. Over 12 million Koreans travel abroad each year; about 7 million people of Korean nationality or ancestry live in foreign countries; and Korea is one of the world’s top economies open for trade with its foreign trade dependency hovering above 110%. We have benefited significantly from exchange with the international community. Any nuclear terrorist incident, regardless of wherever it may occur, exposes Korean people and economy to enormous loss. It is, therefore, in our core national interests to head off nuclear terrorism and maintain world peace. Thirdly, the Seoul Summit is expected to restore a great deal of trust in atomic energy that had been lost as a result of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. It will also give publicity to Korea’s exemplary record in development of atomic energy and its nuclear security and safety system, increasing confidence in the country’s atomic energy and expanding the groundwork for its nuclear power plant exports. Lastly, the Seoul Summit will help stabilize affairs on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia in 2012 and expedite North Korea’s denuclearization. It will offer a chance to stabilize conditions and apply pressure on North Korea for its denuclearization amid fears of the increasing uncertainties surrounding the North Korean regime following Kim Jong-il’s death, possible military provocation and nuclear threat under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, and growing political instability as a result of extensive power shifts in neighboring countries. As the Washington Summit focused on preventing nuclear terrorism by ‘non-state actors’, the Seoul Summit will not address nuclear proliferation by states, i.e. illegitimate nuclear programs. However, it is expected that heads of state will, on various occasions, call for North Korea’s denuclearization, reform, and opening, and support peace on the Korean peninsula.


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