2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit by Sangkyu Lee*

March 26, 2012, Monday/ 17:21:00

It is estimated that there are 1,600 tons of enriched uranium and 485 tons of separated plutonium in the world.

It is possible to produce one nuclear bomb with 25 kilograms of pure uranium235 or 10 kilograms of plutonium239 and destructive bombs can be made with even smaller amounts. Two hundred cases of stolen, missing or smuggled nuclear materials take place every year.

Imagine that nuclear materials were illegally acquired by a terrorist organization. We all saw in the unprecedented terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 that one terrorist, without considering how many people would be sacrificed in the pursuit of political goals, will resort to any method.

It is obvious that a nuclear weapon or nuclear materials -- once acquired by a terrorist organization or actors who wish to sabotage the international order -- can be used as a threat, or for terrorism itself. In the event that they are used, the world would suffer from extensive and irreparable social, cultural and environmental damage.

Therefore, it is our obligation to address the threat of nuclear terrorism for the sake of future generations. We learned from the March 11, 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan that the safety of nuclear facilities is as important as nuclear weapons security itself. The second Nuclear Security Summit, to be held in Seoul on March 26 and 27, 2012, will discuss such major issues as the prevention of nuclear proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The summit will also focus on the best methods for creating a more peaceful and secure world and a nuclear-free environment.

The second Nuclear Security Summit will be presided over by Korean President Lee Myung-bak and will be attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Leaders of other countries with nuclear arms, including US President Barack Obama, who initiated the Nuclear Security Summit, heads of states from 50 other countries and representatives from a number of international institutions, including the UN, the IAEA and INTERPOL, will also attend. The summit will discuss international cooperation for preventing nuclear terrorism, the prevention of illegal nuclear materials trade and illegal processing facilities. It will also deal with the issue of nuclear security, a major problem for international security.

The Nuclear Security Summit seeks to address the management of radioactive nuclear materials, the protection of nuclear energy facilities, the prevention of nuclear materials smuggling, the detection of nuclear leaks, the protection of sensitive nuclear energy and arms information, broadening the implementation of international nuclear security conventions and reinforcing international nuclear security. Nuclear terrorism and nuclear security are not subjects that concern the US alone. Korea also seeks to remove all nuclear arms in the Korean Peninsula by finding a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. As the fastest-growing country in Europe, and a country that is considering nuclear power, Turkey must take immediate measures to prevent terrorism. We cannot know when terrorist attacks will take place, nor the exact form they will take; for this reason, every country, in addition to spending efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, should take measures to make sure that terrorists do not acquire nuclear materials or processing facilities within their borders. Additionally, they should also work hard to secure multilateral cooperation in different international platforms.

The role Turkey can play for a nuclear-free world is huge. Turkey is critical for attaining regional and international security. Turkey is also crucially important for European security. European countries need Turkey’s cooperation and support because of its strong historical ties in the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, Balkan, Caspian, South Caucasian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern regions. Experts and analysts uphold that most of Europe’s security needs in the 21st century will be provided by countries in southeastern Europe, including Turkey.

Turkey also plays a crucial role for international security in the 21st century. As a G20 member, Turkey is pursuing an active foreign policy. Turkey’s experience with democracy offers insights neighboring Arab countries, many of whom have recently overthrown authoritarian regimes and now seek to create a new political order. Turkey, which has gone beyond its traditional role as bridge between the East and the West, is pursuing a dynamic foreign policy to maintain communication and contact between developing and developed nations. There is a strong need for Turkey to play this role at the Nuclear Security Summit, where crucial problems concerning all of humankind will be discussed.

Turkey, in the service of freedom and democracy in Korea, sacrificed many lives 60 years ago in the Korean War. Based on this bond of brotherhood, Turkey and Korea recently reaffirmed their strategic partnership during a visit by Korean President Lee Myung-bak to Turkey in February. I strongly hope that the close relationship and cooperation between Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan and Korean President Lee is maintained, for the success of the Nuclear Security Summit, an important international forum for the sake of the common goal of creating a nuclear-free world and advancing world peace.


* Sangkyu Lee is the Korean ambassador to Turkey.