World leaders: Nuclear terrorism a 'grave threat'


President Obama: ''There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials''

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World leaders have called for closer co-operation to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism at a summit on nuclear security in Seoul.

A communique at the end of the summit reiterated a joint call to secure "vulnerable nuclear material".

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said nuclear terrorism remained a "grave threat", while US President Barack Obama said action was key.

The meeting was dominated by North Korea's plan to launch a rocket.

North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite when it goes up in April. The US says any launch would violate UN resolutions and constitute a missile test.

Iran's nuclear programme was also on the minds of the summit participants, with Mr Obama pledging to meet the leaders of Russia and China on the sidelines to work towards a resolution.

'Bad actors'

At the meeting, world leaders discussed measures to fight the threat of nuclear terrorism, including the protection of nuclear materials and facilities, as well as the prevention of trafficking of nuclear materials.


The communique describes nuclear terrorism as one of the most challenging threats to international security. But the responsibility to maintain security over nuclear materials lies firmly with states rather than international bodies. And any effort to try to establish or impose common international standards inevitably raises concerns in some quarters that the world's major powers are seeking to intrude into the nuclear affairs of other countries.

That's why this communique reaffirms that measures to strengthen nuclear security will not hamper the rights of states to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The summit urges states to minimise the use of highly enriched uranium - one of the building blocks for a nuclear bomb.

The summit highlights the threat from radioactive materials more generally. But again all the summit can do is urge states to take measures to secure these materials and work towards ratifying international conventions on nuclear security. It is hardly a resounding outcome from a gathering over-shadowed by the more immediate wrangling over North Korea's and Iran's nuclear activities.

A joint communique reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear disarmament, non-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."

But it omitted a reference made in a draft communique last Thursday on the need for "concrete steps" towards a world without nuclear weapons, AFP news agency reports.

There are currently no binding international agreements on how to protect nuclear material stored peacefully inside its home country, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul. An amendment seeking to do that is still unratified after seven years.

Addressing the summit, Mr Obama warned there were still "too many bad actors'' who were threatening to stockpile and use ''dangerous'' nuclear material.

"It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and that's not an exaggeration, that's the reality that we face," he said.

"The security of the world depends on the actions that we take."

Mr Hu called for "an international environment conducive to boosting nuclear security" to be created and Mr Lee called for concrete action to tackle a threat that posed "a grave challenge" to peace.

The summit was attended by almost 60 leaders from around the world.

Rocket launch

Meetings on Monday were overshadowed by North Korea's planned launch, scheduled to take place between 12 and 16 April.

Pyongyang says it is intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung.

Nuclear stockpiles in numbers

  • 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

On Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said that the launch would go ahead as planned and criticised Mr Obama's stance as ''confrontational''.

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

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

"As such, the international community strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and cancel the launch," he said.

The resolutions were passed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as that rocket was launched over the country three years ago.

The US and Chinese presidents met on Monday on the sidelines of the summit and agreed to co-ordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if Pyongyang went ahead with the launch.

South Korea and the US say North Korea risks further sanctions and isolation if it does not cancel its plans. Seoul has also warned it will shoot down the rocket if it strays over South Korean territory.

Nuclear weapons map

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  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    #124 Ady.
    I think you'll find that even during WWII, there was disquiet about the carpet bombing of cities. Basically because it was obvious that it was the civilian non-combatant population(men, women & children) that was suffering not the regime's leadership or it's war fighting capability.
    It's one of the reasons Bomber Command never had a campaign medal struck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I'm sure if U.S. transfered its nuclear arsenal to Iran, many a peacenik here would feel much safer, right?

    Btw. Next war will be fought be terrorists with untraceable chemical and biological weapons.

    [ one doesn't need missiles/bombers to spread them]

    Not that atomic weapons are difficult to build once you acquire enough of plutonium-239 or highly enriched uranium-235.

  • Comment number 128.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    this madness has been with us since 1945,"destroyer of worlds" is an apt verb for the consequences of our folly. we appeared to be making progress towards disarment,now so late in the game there are,it appears new players at the table.little men with one hell of a punch. the right thing would be for the leading powers to work together,remember in this game nobody wins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I always laugh when any discussion on nuclear weapons brings out all the self-appointed "enlightened" thinkers who think they're very clever when they point out that only the United states used nuclear weapons 60 years ago. Like that has any relevance to current world affairs. Yes it is hypocritical that the West be allowed nuclear weapons and North Korea not. So what? It is also safer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    "When Russia and USA get rid of their nuclear weapons they and others have the moral right to ask other countries to get rid of theirs"

    You forgot to mention (I'm sure uintentionally) China, India and Pakistan.

    P.S. #119 Wucash re Obama's off-mike remark.

    Many Poles believe they've been sold by Obama down the river, just as they were sold by Churchill and Roosevelt in Yalta.

  • Comment number 124.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    i love how the only country that has even used nuclear weaponry is the one warning everyone of bad actors and terrorism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    It seems grossly unfair that with a population of 24 million North Korea has less than 10 warheads. That's only 1 for every 2.4 million people. Compared with the UK (1 for every 250,000) and the US (1 for every 35,000) that's paltry. We should either give them some of ours or help them build some more. It's no wonder they're so angry with the West, tsssk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    The realpolitik truth is that, for the big powers, nuclear weapons buy you a seat at the international top table, the Security Council of the UN. This brings international respect and considerable influence.

    Lower ranking countries see this and use nuclear weapons programmes to raise their own status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.


    Once again we have scare mongering to keep the masses frightened of supposed `terrorists` getting hold of nuclear weapon just to keep a tight control over people.

    Whether you like it or not, religious extremists exist. It doesnt matter who created them, they exist and are not a lie. You want to take stupid risks with your security, be my guest, but not with mine you dont.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    And yet Obama promised Putin he will take out the missle defence system in Poland if he gives him "space" during his election.
    What a hypocrite. How can anyone believe him anymore is beyond me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    108 says: "Ninety-nine comments in and we have the first playground-style anti-Israel rant."

    Maybe "playground-style" comments by have something to do with it.

    Israel is believed to possess between 75 & 400 nuclear warheads with ability to deliver by intercontinental ballistic missile, aircraft & submarine. But Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

    True or not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.


    "Lesser of two evils"

    People struggle to grasp this concept r.e the nuclear strikes. For a land invasion, a million US service personnel would have died but also many more Japanese. They also forget about PoW camps - let me be nuked over that any day.

    Anyway, the morals are very blurred. The bombs were war crimes, but people shouldn't judge them in isolation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    It would marvellous if Britain were to give up its nuclear weapons. But conferences like this suggest that now is NOT the time to do it, nor for the foreseeable future. We need neither the strike power of a Trident, nor the degree of US control that goes with it. Replacement alone would be too expensive; of the remaining nuclear states France seems the only one with which we could collaborate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    "Israel [surrounded by mortal ememies who want to "wipe it off the world map] who has a pop. of 8 million people but according to this article has a stockpile of 80 nuclear weapons."

    Compare it with 10 THOUSAND warheads in Russia's arsenal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    biggest propensity for the world's and our destruction is in the hands of a gangster controlled state.
    And the next biggest is Halliburton controlled.

  • Comment number 113.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    WHAT ON EARTH IS THE UK DOING WITH 225 WARHEADS? This just proves the stupidity of megalomaniac policitians and the warmongers in this country. It doesn't matter how many warheads other countries have, a sufficient deterrent (if needed) is 10 warheads. Why do people keep perpetrating the myth that a deterrent needs to be a capability to blow up the world 5 times over?

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    BANG !


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