Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

by Shin Hyung-Keun, Consul General of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Hiroshima

Hiroshima must take an interest

In a speech he delivered in Prague in April 2009, when discussing the abolition of nuclear weapons U.S. President Barack Obama said, “…as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.”

At the same time he cited the possibility of the acquisition of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials by terrorist groups as a security issue requiring prompt attention and called on the leaders of countries around the world to gather and debate the issue.

In response, the first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington in April of the following year. Participants stressed the importance of preventing nuclear terrorism and advocated enhanced international cooperation to prevent illegal trafficking in nuclear materials.

This first-ever summit to focus on the threat of nuclear terrorism was attended by representatives of India, Pakistan and Israel, which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Nevertheless, the people of Japan, who have painful memories of the atomic bombings, may feel this is not really enough. This may be particularly true of the people of Hiroshima, who have called for the abolition of the world’s nuclear weapons and who proposed the creation of Mayors for Peace and have played a leading role in its efforts.

Even if the abolition of nuclear weapons is the goal, how can we control existing nuclear weapons and nuclear materials? Can we prepare for unforeseen circumstances? Realistically, shouldn’t control be the most pressing issue?

There are 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium in the world. It is said that more than 120,000 nuclear weapons could be manufactured with these materials. And these kinds of radioactive materials turn up missing more 200 times a year.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), from 1993 through 2011 nuclear materials were reported missing on more than 2,000 occasions, and in 60 percent of these cases the materials were never recovered.


The first nuclear security summit took place against this background. For that reason nations whose opinions on nuclear arms clearly differ were able to gather in one location.

The second summit will be held in Seoul starting on March 26. As an adjunct event, a Seoul Nuclear Energy Industry Summit will be held, primarily for the public.

The summit will be attended by the heads of state of approximately 50 nations, including the U.S., Russia and China, as well as representatives of the United Nations, the IAEA and the European Union. The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) is also slated to send a representative.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will represent Japan, and delegates from Denmark and other nations that were invited by South Korea will also participate. The summit is expected to be the largest meeting of its kind to address nuclear-related issues.

South Korea, which will chair the summit, will fine-tune the agenda while coordinating the positions of the participating nations and will take the lead in drafting the Seoul Communiqué, which will be the summit’s formal declaration.

The summit will mainly discuss issues that were taken up in Washington such as the response to nuclear terrorism, the protection of nuclear materials and facilities and illegal trafficking of radioactive materials. But by broadening the debate the summit can contribute to the building of even stronger world peace.

At the first summit, then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama represented Japan, which was among the first to sign the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism in 2005. Mr. Hatoyama not only actively participated in the debate but, in response to the Washington Communiqué, Japan has undertaken various efforts to strengthen nuclear security, including setting up a support center.

I must note that the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima took place between the Washington and Seoul meetings.

This has lent a different cast to the Seoul meeting, and there will be renewed debate on the issues of the maintenance of safety at nuclear power facilities and their protection.

People have high expectations of Japan. It is hoped that, while telling the world of the lessons of the accident at the nuclear power plant, Japan will also raise the alarm about the safety of nuclear power and make more practical proposals.

Although it will not provide an opportunity to debate the abolition of nuclear weapons directly, by including nations that are not signatories to the NPT the summit has the potential to promote future global cooperation. I hope the strong will of the participating nations will foster the summit’s growth and lead to substantive discussions on nuclear disarmament and its implementation.

That is why I would like Hiroshima to take an interest in the discussions at the summit and in the Seoul Communiqué.

Shin Hyung-Keun
Consul General of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Hiroshima

Born in 1954. Joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea in 1978. After assignments in Europe, the United States and South America, served as consul general in Qingdao and Shenyang, China from 2004. Assumed his current post in March 2011. Focuses on expanding exchanges between Japan and South Korea. Second-generation A-bomb survivor whose father experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

(Originally published on March 20, 2012)